County seeks info on hazard plan changes

County seeks info on hazard plan changes

(April 4, 2014) The Worcester County Commissioners scuttled a proposed May 20 public hearing on an update to the Hazard Mitigation Plan because they want to compare it to the existing plan.

The plan is a completely new one, so it would be very difficult for county staff to note changes easily.

Basically, the plan seeks to eliminate or reduce hazard-related human, economic and environmental losses. Its focus is on high-risk natural hazards such as hurricanes, nor’easters, floods and strong winds. It does not address emergencies caused by people.

The plan includes unincorporated areas of the county and the towns of Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke.

After the updated plan is approved, the county and the three municipalities will remain eligible for funding from several sources including the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Funds are available for pre-disaster and post-disaster mitigation projects as well as recovery and reconstruction. This funding is not available without an approved plan.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley said recent FEMA changes about flood plains should be considered. The numbers in the new plan do not correspond with those recent changes, which included moving some properties out of designated areas with high risks of flooding.

County attorney Sonny Bloxom said an executive summary of changes could be made, but Commissioner Madison Bunting said he wants a copy of the current plan so he can compare them himself. Bunting suggested, and the commissioners voted to approve, the formation of a committee to compare the two plans and to make note of the changes.

In May 2012, former Emergency Services Director Teresa Owens received approval to hire an outside consultant to assist Emergency Planning Tom Kane in updating the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan must be updated every five years. The last time it was updated, the county staff in the Department of Emergency Services and staff in Comprehensive Planning did the work.

This draft plan was completed by S&S Planning of Cumberland and Kane after meetings with county and local government stakeholders. The plan was then sent to FEMA, which notified the county that it met FEMA criteria.

Ocean City is not included in the plan because it has its own plan.

After the commissioners form a committee and review the new draft plan, copies of it will be delivered to the town governments of Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke for their review and acceptance. The next step is to post the draft plan on the county’s Web site, www.co.worcester.md.us, and then to hold a public hearing. Following that hearing, the commissioners would adopt a resolution for the plan

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