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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Following the deadly flood that occurred in Waverly, Tennessee, in August 2021, Larry Lescure, the city’s director of code enforcement, was unsure how he himself would undertake the task of inspecting hundreds of damaged homes.

“I’m just a one-man band,” said Lescure, a Waverly police officer for 30 years before taking the job as building code officer. “If it hadn’t been for the FEMA grant, we wouldn’t be this far in the rebuilding process.”

The Town of Waverly is the second community in the nation to benefit from a recent policy providing communities with the resources to effectively administer and enforce building code and floodplain management. Section 1206 of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 authorized FEMA funding to increase overall speed of recovery and improve compliance with building codes and floodplain management ordinances passed by state and locally.

Under Section 1206, activities that a community would normally undertake to administer and enforce its codes may be eligible for reimbursement. Eligible work may include:

  • Costs of reviewing and processing permits and plans for construction and floodplain management.
  • Hiring, training and supervision of staff – including overtime for budgeted employees and overtime and direct hours for unbudgeted employees and additional hires.
  • Inspect structures
  • Prepare cost information to determine significant damages.

With a $4,500 grant, Lescure was able to hire contractors to inspect damaged properties and ensure that new structures were built according to building and floodplain codes. This allowed residents and other organizations to rebuild faster,

In May, Waverly resident Eileen Puckett was the first to move into one of 25 homes that will be built in the community by the Appalachia Service Project, a Christian ministry that builds homes for low-income people in the region. During the storm, Puckett had been trapped in her home in chest-deep water until a boat came to rescue her.

“When they told me my share of the cost was zero, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Puckett said. Since the summer floods destroyed her home, Puckett has been living in a small apartment building in town that was once Flo’s barbecue.

Prior to moving into her new home, Puckett was receiving rental assistance from FEMA. But because her home was in a special flood risk zone and she didn’t have flood insurance, she couldn’t receive federal reconstruction funding. His new two-bedroom home sits on the same property and is now elevated two feet above the floodplain. HVAC equipment was placed in the attic as a mitigation measure.

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