Nichols officials change selection process for recipients of donated flood money

NICHOLS, S.C. (WBTW) – The Town of Nichols received $361,000 in donations to rebuild after Hurricane Matthew flooded nearly every home in the town last October.

Town officials first announced a pre- application process near the end of February that would be used to assess the needs of homeowners to decide who would receive a portion of the money. The town’s steering committee has now formed a new way to decide how the money will get dispersed.

Town officials say 10 homes in Nichols will be rebuilt, in part, by the donated money. The Nichols Steering Committee says those 10 homes will be selected based on the amount of money the owners will receive from HUD or FEMA.

Three of the homes have already been selected. It’s undetermined how much each of the 10 homeowners will receive.

Longtime Nichols resident Daniel Lewis says his family is homeless even though his house is still standing.

“We have basically lost everything that we’ve ever owned,” expresses Lewis. “Things that look okay are not okay. I was thinking if we had a fire. That a fire would be better because at least you know that is was actually gone. Whereas with a flood, things look good, you think you can wipe it off and everything will be alright, but it just isn’t the case.”

Lewis lives next door to one of the homes selected to use donated disaster relief money to repair flood damages.

“I understand that they do have to focus on individuals first so that these people get their help done versus giving out a little to each person where they cannot do anything with it and get some people back into their home,” says Lewis.

Nichols Town Administrator Sandy Rogers says the steering committee is working with the Palmetto Disaster Recovery case managers to create a list of 10 homes that will not qualify for the $52 million of HUD money granted to Marion County.

“We did not want to be put in any position whatsoever to be able to pick or choose on personal preference,” explains Rogers. “It is absolutely according to need.”

Rogers says the committee does not know the person’s name, they only know their needs to rebuild and limitations.

“You’ve got someone that is in a reasonable living situation,” explains Rogers. “It may not be perfect. It maybe with a family member, but it is a roof over their head. Then you have someone that is living in a situation that is not safe, that is possibly infested. You want to get them out of their home quicker.”

Lewis says he has faith the close-knit community in Nichols will rebuild as long as people are willing to help.

“Our community will come back,” predicts Lewis. “As they keep saying, ‘Nichols strong.’ We’ll be able to get back on our feet and be stronger after this flood.”

The Marion County Long Term Recovery Group is working with three volunteer organizations, that way, the relief money is only paying for materials and not contractor fees.

Rogers says people in Nichols should register with the Palmetto Disaster Recovery Case Managers. In the event that more money is donated to the town, the recovery group will be able to help more families.

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