The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may not be able to provide funding for rebuilding Vilonia, but representatives said they can provide some technical assistance.
“There is funding all over the place; it is not FEMA money,” said National Disaster Recovery Coordinator Wayne Rickard.
Rickard was present for a meeting held recently with a group of local leaders who took part in a series of focus sessions to “capture the views of key community stakeholders” about the disaster recovery needs facing the city of Vilonia.
Grassroots efforts, such as those already being promoted are necessary to rebuild a foundation for successful recovery, Rickard added.
When the residents living and working in an affected area set their own recovery priorities and cohesive in the efforts, he said, there’s greater success. FEMA can assist in “putting together a project package that can be forwarded to the holder of the checkbook” resulting in money coming to the city from various avenues. At the local level, Rickard said, businesses may be able to contribute resources or personnel as well as participate in community recovery planning. At the regional, state and national levels, corporations, foundations, individuals or other entities may be approached for technical assistance and grants or other resources.
“We can help with providing partial solutions by providing connections,” he said.
A FEMA support team along with members of the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, officials said has begun efforts to provide the connections by collecting data and compiling it.
A 64-page document, provided by FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework Coordination Team was presented at that meeting. The process, according to the document involved 21 “stakeholders” making up a focus group.
The focus group included Allin Crawford, Vilonia firefighter, Bill Reed, sewer department, Brad McNew, police chief, Cecil McMurtry, water department manager, Charles Weaver, business owner and city planning commission, David Stephens, superintendent of schools, Doris Scroggins, recorder/treasurer, Fred Fowlkes, city engineer, Mayor James Firestone, Jill Bonnema, Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce, city council members Jim King, Joe Maxwell and Kathy French, Keith Hillman, fire chief, Kelly Lawrence, city clerk, Jody Lawrence, business owner, Leigh Ann Pool, CAPDD program manager, Martha Martin, chairman of the Vilonia Disaster Recovery Alliance, Marty Knight, chairman of the 2014 Rebuild Vilonia steering committee, Melissa Jenkins, planning commission and Stanley Gordon Jr., business owner and a member of the 2014 Rebuild Vilonia steering committee, Tom Anderson, Faulkner Co. administrator, Joe Crisafulli, manager of Facilities and Emergency Management for Conway Corporation, Allen Dodson, Faulkner County Judge, David Hogue, Faulkner County attorney, Sheila McGhee, Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management and Glen Willhite, Faulkner County road foreman.
Data compiled from the sessions, according the FEMA document, reflected feelings shared including.
Holes in a familiar landscape have left behind a profound sense of sadness. People are worried about further loss and are trying to cope with change. There is a sense of urgency to make progress with rebuilding. For some, this means resurrecting and re-establishing the past. For others, it is time to innovate and create a new future for Vilonia. There is confusion about whether and where resources for recovery exist. There is frustration with government bureaucracy. The people of Vilona are committed to their recover and to one another. There is clarity among the leaders about many of the next steps. Also, there is a desire to make order out of chaos and move forward.
Projects discussed in the focus groups included emotional support groups, assistance in the Black Oak area, a memorial to honor Vilonia’s resilience, the building of safe rooms, preparedness planning for future disasters, debris removal, a community center, increasing the chamber of commerce capacity to attract and retain businesses, tax incentives for businesses, Main Street redevelopment, parks for recreation and infrastructure.
Members of the focus groups referred to the meetings as positive and the compilation of the information as helpful.