Florida Governor Ron Desantis announced a combined total of more than $12.8 million in grant funding for the City of Wewahitchka and Gulf County on October 10, the four year anniversary of Hurricane Michael.
The local funding, which was allocated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity under the blanket of the state’s Rebuild Florida Program, was included in more than $126 million in awards.
“Today’s $126 million awarded to 24 Hurricane Michael impacted communities is an example of our lasting commitment to helping Florida communities rebuild following a storm,” said Governor Ron DeSantis at a press conference in Port Charlotte. “Four years later, northwest Florida has made remarkable progress, but it has been a difficult journey with more work ahead.”
The money will be used to address roads, drainage and sewer system issues that directly resulted from the storm.
Wewahitchka was awarded $5.5 million to implement improvements to their storm sewer system, which was badly damaged in the hurricane.
Their allotment comes through the Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair Program.
“The funds will be used to replace multiple stormwater collection inlets throughout the city, which will prevent overflowing manholes as a result of the damage done to drainage pipes and storm drain grates,” wrote City Clerk Rachel Jackson in an email. “Additionally, we plan to purchase and replace box culverts that were damaged, along with expanding and re-establishing many of our existing ditches.”
“The City applied for the funding last year, and we were very pleased to hear that we’ve been awarded $5.5 million.”
The combined $7.35 million in funding heading towards the county will be directed towards road and bridge improvements in Overstreet and Stone Mill Creek.
County Engineer Clayton Smallwood said the hurricane’s impacts at the Dianna Street Bridge in Stone Mill Creek have been clear. Now, when it rains heavily, the bridge goes underwater.
“The bridge and the approach going into it has gone underwater since the hurricane. It has egregiously flooded, I think, a couple of times. And it cuts off about probably 170, 180 property owners that that’s their one way in and one way out,” Smallwood said. “So we get to replace that bridge and elevate the road.”
The county was awarded $4.725 million to replace the South Dianna Street Bridge through the Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program (CDBG–MIT), which emphasizes preventing future storm damage.
The remaining $2.625 million allotted to the county, also through the CDBG–MIT program, will be spent on improvements to the Overstreet Road Area’s roadway and drainage.
“The other (grant) is more roads and drainage improvements, which just kind of go along with all the damage after Hurricane from clean up. A lot of it’s from clean up. There was certainly storm surge on the coast, but a good deal of the damage is from cleanup in the inland areas,” said Smallwood. “And so (this grant) is helping some of the inland areas with their roads, getting them back in good shape.”
Governor Desantis, in announcing the awards, emphasized that just as the state has committed to long-term support of communities impacted by Hurricane Michael, “the state will also continue to be unwavering in its long-term commitment to rebuilding Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian.”
For more information about the Rebuild Florida program, including the Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair and the Mitigation General Infrastructure programs, please visit www.RebuildFlorida.gov.