There’s one thing that City of Salem Mayor Troy Merry has made known since the election over a year ago — that he cares deeply about the City of Salem and its residents.
During the recent flooding, Merry has worked non-stop alongside other officials and aid workers to make sure everyone is taken care of.
Now, he’s balancing getting funding for items and facilities damaged belonging to the City of Salem with helping local businesses and residents.
The businesses and residents win every time.
“My first priority is that the business owners and homeowners are helped as quickly as we can. They are the life blood of the community. They are the life of our city,” said Merry. “I want to see they get help as quick and as fast as they can. To get them back up on their feet.”
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch came to Salem this morning to tour the flooded areas and see, firsthand, the devastation.
“I want to take back stories and images so we can make a case for help,” she said.
While waiting on government assistance, Merry pointed out the Flood Relief Fund he and Clerk Treasurer Sally Hattabaugh set up yesterday.
“Like I said on the radio this morning, if you want to go donate straight to them, that’s fine. It takes the middle man out. We set up a fund here….we’ll have a one page application when they walk in and I want them to have what they need. I don’t know what the amount they need to get their lives back on track. Whether it’s $50 or $1000, I want them to walk out with what they need.”
“That’s what so special about Salem and this community,” said Crouch.
“The people who have stepped forward and volunteered is what has gotten us through this,” the Mayor said. “It’s unreal. My main concern is that these people are taken care of. Our first priority is the people who have businesses and the people who live here. I know what they’re feeling. I want to be able to give them help so they can put that OPEN sign back in the window or go back to their house. If I can see that done, I’ll be happy that they’re taken care of. As a city government, we’ll take care of our problems once they are taken care of.”
In that area, Merry said an assessment has been completed for the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Salem and is already in the “millions of dollars. “We’ve had engineers looking at the streets…we’re working on that,” he pointed out.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Indiana Homeland Security and others were also in town to discuss the likelihood of state and federal assistance.
However, according to the Federal Emergency Management Association, funding is usually only awarded in multi-county disasters.
Indiana Director of Homeland Security Brian Langley said Alexander was on point during the disaster.
“All these damage assessments are critical,” Langley said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction [and] will help make this highly competitive. Having a person like Desi is critical. With all this information, you’re building a case. I wish we could do things quicker. I can guarantee the information she’s tracking is making a very good case.”
The question remains is how the data will be interpreted by state and federal officials, and when purse strings will be opened (if at all).
Alexander said the American Red Cross and Salvation Army are still working to assess household damage.
District 73 Representative Steve Davisson asked how fast Small Business Administration aid could be available for local businesses.
Langley said, “There is a process there, too, through damage assessment. The Governor would make a determination on whether to have the SBA come in and help. That can be a fairly quick process. The key to that is the assessment that Desi and our team is making. We can do our part as quickly as it can.”
Merry said, “We live in the greatest country we could live in. We’re blessed to be in Indiana and blessed to be in Salem. Always glad to see the Salem signs. I watched the national news and see disasters all over. People get help. I would like to see this community get a break. The small business owners put every dime into getting their business started. I know there are grants out there, but that’s another payment. That’s going to take something away from their family or they might have to cut an employee. I’d like to get them some help. I think there would be money out there somewhere. As a city, I’m just the mayor, our city doesn’t have a lot of money, but if we could get a grant from the city to help, we’ll try to match that.”
“What the homeowners have in their house is all they’ve got,” Merry explained. “If there was some help, where we could come in and say – here you go. They’ve supported our community, and it’s time to support them back. I’ll stand behind them 100 percent!”
Merry went on to say, “The city doesn’t have a lot of money, but by gosh, if a grant is the only way we can get money, and it only takes a few thousand dollars to match it, then by God, the city will get that grant. I don’t care what any organization says. I’ll worry about the consequences later. These people are our life. I care about each and every one of you. I’m not going to let you down. We’ll get through this together.
“I can’t walk into a house and watch them loose everything…or go into a business that I can go to when I need a donation — they cut me a check and don’t ever ask me a question — but now I have to tell them they have to pay for this. I ain’t going to do it…I won’t do it. As long as I have breath….they can get rid of me, impeach me. They can do whatever. I’ll be behind them. These people — I have all the faith in the world [in them]. I love our community,” he said.
Merry is also working with Ruth Hackman, District Conservationist with the USDA and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
They could provide funding for cleaning up debris along the river.
Duke Energy worked tirelessly to repair and restore electric, Frontier Communications is repairing phone lines and poles on High Street and countless other volunteers worked over the weekend to restore life to businesses that were flooded.
“We’ll get through this and we’ll be better than what we were before,” said Merry.