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Johnson County struggles to be added to disaster list

Following the news that Johnson County was not among the four counties designated as disaster areas from last week’s tornado, many residents have been understandably disappointed, frustrated and somewhat frightened. Rep. Scotty Campbell, Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter and Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jason Blevins are quick to reassure citizens that there will be further designations made as damages are assessed and reported to authorities.
With representatives from Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) on the ground in Johnson County Monday and joined by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) members on Tuesday, officials are confident that Johnson County will join the four counties already named as disaster areas, hopefully by the end of this week.

Potter, Blevins and Campbell have been working diligently since last Thursday morning to secure assistance for the county.
“Following the storms I asked Governor Bill Haslam’s office and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency that Johnson County be included in any fly-overs or ground tours to assess damages,” said Campbell of the situation. “The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency replied, ‘We’ll do our best.’” Campbell went on to say that unfortunately, Johnson County was not included in the fly-over that led to the initial federal disaster declaration request by Governor Haslam. This was no doubt a contributing factor to the county not being included at that time. “I want to assure you that I will not back down and that Johnson County will receive the help that we need,” added Campbell.
“Jason (Blevins) and I have been on the road constantly during this catastrophe,” said Potter, “talking to residents, working with TEMA and FEMA officials, and just generally making sure we have all our ducks in a row on our end. These are our friends and neighbors, and they’re hurting and we want to do everything in our power to help them.”

Although an official designation for Johnson County had not been made at press time, calls to The Tomahawk office from both Potter and Campbell were optimistic that the recommendation is forthcoming from FEMA and TEMA.
Campbell praised the local emergency personnel and volunteers for their hard work and commitment since the onset of this emergency. “I have remained in close contact with our local emergency management agency director, Jason Blevins,” he said. “I commend him and all of our local emergency personnel and volunteers for their work. I am proud of how our community is once again unified in the rebuilding effort.”
Campbell is in Nashville for legislative session until Thursday, May 5th but will be returning to the county on Friday, May 6th for a public informational meeting at the Johnson County Rescue Squad’s Crewette building on Vandilla Street in Mountain City. The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss where we are in the TEMA/FEMA disaster assistance process and what assistance is available to Johnson Countians.
As of this writing, Rep. Scotty Campbell, Emergency Management Agency Director Mr. Jason Blevins, Sheriff Mike Reece, Mr. Paul Anderson, Director of the Johnson County Rescue Squad, Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter, and others are set to take part in this meeting. Campbell has also invited TEMA officials to join the meeting and although they have not yet confirmed their attendance, he is confident they will send someone. There will be a question and answer session. “The public is invited and encouraged to attend, he said. “In the meantime, if I can assist in any way please call my office at 615-741-2050.”
According to Donnie Smith, a TEMA representative, the delays lie not with the State of Tennessee but with FEMA regulations. In a communication to Campbell, he said, “…Only the counties with the greatest and most obvious injuries and damage could be included in an expedited emergency under FEMA rules. That will not preclude Johnson County from being added to the next set. This is hard to understand when a person’s home is gone or worse, but the law states that a county must also meet its threshold for damages under the Stafford Act. We could not include the county in the first set since it, without doubt a good thing, did not have a large number of deaths and injuries. “