Cordova facing $6M funding gap for disaster projects
by Jennifer Cohron
Apr 27, 2013 | 1793 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new ballfield, which includes a playground and skate park, was among the first projects completed in Cordova after FEMA gave it the green light for funding.  Daily Mountain Eagle — Jennifer Cohron
A new ballfield, which includes a playground and skate park, was among the first projects completed in Cordova after FEMA gave it the green light for funding. Daily Mountain Eagle — Jennifer Cohron
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The tornadoes of two years ago were indiscriminate in their destruction, impacting families and communities that were already struggling to survive.

Such was the case in Cordova, a city that had been in decline for decades when it took two direct hits on April 27, 2011. Among the structures destroyed were City Hall, the fire department, police station, library, senior center, medical clinic and downtown ballpark as well as several businesses, including the city’s only grocery store.

“The thing that most people do not realize is that we lost the majority of our tax base the day those storms hit,” said Mayor Drew Gilbert, who took office last fall.

Overnight, revenue slowed and expenses skyrocketed.

Debris clean-up alone was a $151,000 undertaking. While the federal government agreed to reimburse the city for 90 percent of the cost, the city still had to foot the initial bill and cover its share while meeting each month’s payroll.

Clean-up was the start of a recovery that has been perceived as sluggish by many residents and at times seemed to stall.

In 2012, the medical clinic reopened and the baseball fields near downtown were rebuilt.

City officials fought a long battle over federal funding for downtown demolition before finally being approved this January. The project began on Tuesday.

The projected cost of constructing a new downtown is $750,000.

In December, Gov. Robert Bentley announced the city will be receiving $1.4 million to rebuild its grocery store. That project is currently in the design phase.

Although several fiscal hurdles have been cleared recently, the city is still facing a more than $6 million funding gap in regards to the list of projects listed in its disaster recovery plan. The total cost of those projects is $10 million.

Gilbert recently announced that the city will be seeking a significant portion of the $49 million in disaster recovery funding that will soon be available through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

“Fiscally, this city has managed to stay afloat with generous donations, disaster recovery money and the depleted tax revenues, but that cannot continue to be the story. We must take advantage of this outpouring of support that we have now because it will not remain in the near future,” Gilbert said.

Projects that could potentially get the green light for ADECA funding include a new City Hall, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million, and a joint police/fire complex, which has a $2 million pricetag.

Gilbert added that infrastructure projects such as drainage, road alignments, and improved utilities could add millions more to the city’s unmet needs.

“Recovery is not cheap. It does not happen quickly, and while on the surface progress cannot always be seen, we are winning financial battles day after day to ensure that we get our proper share of funding to meet our recovery needs,” Gilbert said.