Nichols committee approves new unmet needs program with donated money

NICHOLS, SC (WBTW) – People from all of the U.S. donated just over $360,000 to help the residents of Nichols rebuild after Hurricane Matthew flooding.

The Steering Committee of five community leaders are assigned to manage the donated money.

The committee is made up of two former representatives Wayne George and Jim Battle, a community advocate, a banker, and a duke energy representative Mindy Taylor. Of the five members, two are Nichols residents.

Mayor Lawson Battle says town leaders selected the diverse group of people to come up with an unbiased way to manage the donated money. The committee also allows town employees to focus on applying for grants and bringing businesses back to the town.

“That’s why we put the committee together to keep us that run the town hall out of it. They are doing a wonderful job,” said Battle. “Now they are looking in other areas and ways to disperse that money. I think it’s going to be a lot better for all of our citizens.”

About a dozen homeowners came to the committee meeting with concerns, most were upset with the distribution of the donated money.

Tuesday, the Committee approved a new unmet needs program. The group will use up to $50,000 from the donated disaster relief fund will help people with small projects.

The committee works closely with two recovery specialists hired through the Marion County Healthcare Foundation.

“There are a lot of people with small repairs or projects,” said Rita Pratte, SBP Disaster Recovery Advisor. “That can range from a kitchen range, a refrigerator, a small ramp that needs to be repaired.”

The owner must apply through the Palmetto Disaster Recovery office. If eligible they can receive up to $3,000 for small repairs.

“That pot of money will go to help so many more people that are almost home. That just need a little help to get there. That puts more citizens back in Nichols,” said Battle.

A Palmetto Disaster Recovery official at the meeting said less an half of the people in Nichols are registered.

Bonita Bailey was at the meeting. She does not qualify for home repairs or reimbursements because she pulled money from her savings but she hopes to get more people back in the town.

“I wish I would have known I could have had help rebuilding,” said Bailey. “We need to get businesses back.”

The committee plans to invite all 22 business owners and people with rental property to the next meeting. The committee hopes to hear what incentives would bring them back to the town.

Council woman Tommesenia Floyd says a lot of rumors were addressed during the meeting.

“The intent of this meeting was to clarify a lot of the misconceptions that have been going on,” said Pratte.

Another concern from citizens and committee members involved poor communication. Town Redevelopment Director Roland Windham says the town will have a preliminary website up within the next week.