Relief sought for tornado victims

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 20, 2003

By LEONARD GRAY-Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Relief is now being sought for people left homeless and helpless following the June 30 tornado which struck two trailer parks in Reserve.

Even though the incident was declared a disaster by Parish President Nickie Monica and Gov. Foster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied any relief funds to the parish.

One reason, according to Sheila Remoto, one of the tornado’s victims, is that the losses sustained by the parish weren’t high enough.

During Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, Councilman Dale Wolfe introduced the matter and said, “I don’t want to carry it out for two weeks because there are people that are homeless at this time as I speak.”

Connie Gueret of Reserve reported on seven homeless families “with nothing, no insurance and no money to get something else.”

Public Safety Director Paul Oncale agreed with the tornado victims, and added Foster has appealed Louisiana’s case. “It wasn’t considered a disaster,” Oncale added. “We are not the only parish. There were seven parishes on the list and all seven were denied.”

Wolfe urged immediate parish action and said, “We need to come in and do what we need to do to assist these families. I can’t see us waiting for three or four months to try and find if we are going to have some, get some state or federal aid.”

Teddy Reynolds Sr. continued, “It’s not that easy, whether you live in a $2,500 trailer or a quarter of a million dollar home, it’s still a heart. It’s still a soul. We need help. There’s a lady sitting right back there that lost everything. If you’ve never seen your drawers in a tree, you should see it. It’s horrible.”

He continued, “The worst part of the tragedy is, when you look up, there’s nobody there, nobody.”

Wolfe called for formation of a committee to address immediate needs and got Oncale, Finance Advisor Jeff Clement and council members Allen St. Pierre, Melissa Faucheux and Cleveland Farlough to join with him.

In other matters, Oncale presented an update on the paid firefighters program approved by voters in May. Information is being assembled from other regional paid fire department regarding policies and procedures, including Kenner, Gonzales and in Lafourche and Jefferson parishes.

Oncale also gave a Homeland Security update and announced the parish ws awarded $63,000 for 2003, being used for risk assessment. The money received in 2002 went for a storage trailer for emergency equipment, Oncale said, and the parish stands to receive another $185,000 t0 $190,000.

A River Parishes “rapid response team” is being assembled, 60 members in all, under Gerald Falgoust, emergency operations director of St. James Parish.

Finally, the council discussed with Robert Maloney a proposed $300 million motor sports/NASCAR complex linked with a harness-racing track. To proceed with the project would require voter approval and clearance through the Racing Commission.

Maloney said plans call for a 1.5-mile oval a 2.5 race course and a drag strip. It could create 4,000 jobs and generate $6-9 million economic impact to the parish.