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$5M grant revives Rebuild

Aug 5, 2009

Right when it looked as if Rebuild Northwest Florida might be winding down its efforts to harden local homes for future storms, $5 million came rolling in Tuesday.

To celebrate that another 500 to 800 homes now will be wind retrofitted, the Florida Division of Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency presented an over-sized check to Rebuild on Elizabeth Scott's front lawn.

Scott lives on Bayou Boulevard in Pensacola, where workers Tuesday afternoon were hardening her home to withstand hurricane-force winds.

"I couldn't have afforded this if it hadn't been for Rebuild Northwest Florida," Scott said. "I feel much safer now. We are just so blessed to have them here to make it more affordable for more people."

Scott's home is one of 3,500 in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties now hardened by the local non-profit during the nearly five years since Hurricane Ivan, which hit the Gulf Coast on Sept. 16, 2004.

Rebuild is a public/private partnership that began to coordinate need-based recovery for Ivan victims. It originally worked off a $20 million FEMA hazard mitigation grant, which recently ran out. Scott's home got storm shutters, hurricane-rated garage doors and roof straps that will withstand 800 pounds of uplift.

Homeowners are required to contribute 25 percent of the bill, which was about $2,260 in Scott's case, said William Bricking, general manager for Rebuild's general contractor, Florida Keys-based R.E. Reece Survey & Inspections.

The total bill was $9,044. At age 80, widowed and unable to deal easily with the shutters herself when a storm comes, Scott chipped in an additional $2,700 to have accordion-style storm shutters installed on certain openings of her house.

"Today is not about Rebuild or the county or Emergency Management, it's about Elizabeth." said Ruben Almaguer, interim director of the Division of Emergency Management.

"This is like 'Extreme Makeover: Hurricane Edition.' It's about strengthening homes and hardening communities."

Almaguer explained that the hardening will help in many ways:

"Elizabeth may not need to evacuate now, or go to a shelter. She is one less person we have to worry about housing," Almaguer said. And if hardening protects her home "it helps keep insurance rates down for all Floridians."

"It's going to take a lot more money to harden the entire state of Florida, but this is a start."

Pensacola News Journal, Jamie Page


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