A budget plan headed to Gov. Henry McMaster for his approval would set aside $700,000 to help the town of Nichols recover from flooding which damaged nearly every home and business in the community.
Nichols was devastated by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew last October, when the Little Pee Dee River rose 17 feet. The resulting flood damaged more than 250 homes and all but one business in the Marion County town.
With its tax base eliminated and little means to repair its infrastructure, the town asked the legislature for help. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses local governments on a 3-to-1 match, Nichols lacked the ability to even start repairs without outside financial help.
“There wasn’t much we could do until this came in,” Town Administrator Sandee Rogers said. “Now that it has, we need to regroup.”
The $700,000 will come from $68 million in reserve funds that legislators set aside for cleanup efforts statewide. The money would help the town set aside its 25 percent match in order to receive FEMA funds for building repairs. Mayor Lawson Battle said the town also hopes to help its displaced residents get a share of $52 million in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assistance to rebuild.
“We lost all of our town, all our buildings except for the actual Town Hall, all of our tractors, lawn mower, vehicles,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Everything just got devastated.”
The town’s fire department and police are operating out of temporary buildings with equipment donated by other agencies. Battle said both stations will need to be rebuilt with new designs that require they be raised three feet higher, in accordance with flood codes. Rogers said the town did not want to calculate repair cost estimates until it knew how much state help, if any, it would be receiving.
Fewer than 60 families have also moved back home, while others are displaced indefinitely until they can rebuild. But many will also have to raise their foundations after not realizing they were previously in a flood zone.
“We hate having to keep asking people to help us, because there are so many other places and people that need help,” Battle said. “But we’re doing everything we can to get back to being sustainable on our own and not having to have help as quick as we can.”
McMaster is expected to approve the earmark.