City ready to give up shelters, awaiting FEMA’s arrival|[9/13/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The wait for FEMA to arrive in Vicksburg is grating on area leaders eager to bring to an end the city’s role in sheltering evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.

“We can’t continue to underwrite services for FEMA and MEMA if I can’t get it in writing that they’ll reimburse us,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens at a briefing of government and volunteer entities at the Vicksburg Convention Center today.

Leyens’ comments came in an exchange with Mark Eaton, the federal agency’s division supervisor for Mississippi. Eaton said the agency is concentrating on the Gulf Coast, the state’s hardest-hit area.

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Plans are for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to serve evacuees at a local office, but not before Monday. Pre-applications can be made by phone or over the Internet.

Aid for local residents is also expected, but after evacuees receive assistance.

American Red Cross-operated shelters housed about 1,200 people in eight facilities immediately before and after Katrina hit on Aug. 29. Eventually, operations were consolidated to one main shelter at the downtown convention center and three others.

Meals are being prepared and served by volunteers and donations have been steady. Leyens, however, has said the city’s cost per month is $165,000 for utilities, consumables, staff and revenue lost due to canceled rentals.

Also Tuesday, it was announced that two shelters, Bowmar Baptist and First Baptist, plan to close their operations and move their evacuees either to the convention center or to more permanent housing. A fourth shelter, with 22 people, was operating at Eagle Lake Baptist Church.

Totals for Vicksburg’s shelters were not available today. According to a figures released by MEMA today, 89 American Red Cross shelters still housed 9,772 evacuees statewide.

In other developments: