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Farmers suffer in more ways than one in Bladenboro

Photos contributed by Don White

Written by Erin Smith

While businesses and residents begin the process of rebuilding, Boost the ‘Boro members have been working to repair flood damage to the Bladenboro Farmers Market. The local Farmer’s Market is the host of fresh produce, handmade crafts and so much more.

Hurricane Florence caused record breaking flooding and significant damage to the market. According to Boost the ‘Boro President, Don White Jr., there were 10 inches of flood water reported inside the farmers market.

“That building was purposefully designed to be built up off the ground by 34 inches. Even with that, 10 inches of water was inside,” said White.

He said the building was not flooded during Hurricane Matthew, but this time, Hurricane Florence dealt it a blow.

White said volunteers with Boost the ‘Boro met on Saturday to begin the process of repairing the building. “Under the leadership of Terry Nance, he and Otis, Keith, Scott, Rufus, Darrell, Rodney, John (and I know I am going to overlook someone, so please forgive my oversight), Johnny, Penny, Donna, Debbie, Paige, and Claudette assisted in the removal of about 32″ of sheetrock, baseboard, insulation and all the bathroom fixtures. This was done in about 3 hours, which is phenomenal for this size building,” said White in an email.

The building has been treated with a fungicide to prevent any mold from growing, and the temperature has been set at 72 degrees, and industrial fans are operating to ensure the building completely dries.  Anyone who does enter the building is asked to refrain from adjusting any of the settings, said White.

He estimated the damages to the facility range between $3,500 to $5,000. White said there is insurance on the building, but there is not a flood insurance policy, and on Monday, it was unknown how much of the damage the policy will cover.

“We never anticipated that it would flood to that point,” said White.

White said the building will basically be unusable until November. White said the work to repair the facility will not impact the farmers who usually set up in the outside vendor spaces. The farmers are welcomed to continue to set up and sell their wares using the outside spaces.

The members of Boost the ‘Boro received a grant in 2013 to construct the building, and work was completed in 2014.

White said he expects the repairs to the farmers market to be completed by November 15th in time for Thanksgiving, and the town’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

White said he has also spoken with officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in regard to assistance that may be available for businesses. White said he learned there are no FEMA provisions for businesses. He said the FEMA representatives he spoke with referred businesses to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for assistance.

White also said he has spoken with every merchant and business owner in Bladenboro. Currently, the Bladenboro Thrift Shop has said they will definitely be closing their doors for good. White said Rodney Baxley has relocated the barbershop to the Butter’s community, and Lila Beth’s is not likely to return to her location.

White said all the other businesses and merchants have said they are going to try to make repairs, and re-open their businesses. Some new businesses may be on the way.

“We have had a couple of people express an interest in opening new businesses. We’ll see what happens,” said White.

Boost the ‘Boro has launched a grant program to try to assist the downtown businesses with the costs of repairs and cleaning up. White said Boost the ‘Boro has dedicated $10,000 towards the grant program, and will be raising more funds for the program during Beast Fest.

He said volunteers with Boost the ‘Boro will be talking with, and interviewing merchants and business owners to learn what their needs are, and how Boost the ‘Boro can assist them. White said while the grants would likely not cover all the expenses, the grant could be beneficial towards purchasing replacement equipment, replace a damaged window, door, or purchase supplies needed to make repairs such as lumber or paint.

He added it will be interesting to see how the town of Bladenboro reinvents itself as businesses begin to re-open their doors.

Plans for Beast Fest are continuing to move forward as well. Sarah Jane Benson has agreed to allow Boost the ‘Boro to meet at Benson’s Grill for the Tuesday night (October 2nd) Beast Fest meeting, said White. He also said the organization will discuss where to conduct the November meeting.

During the Beast Fest, White said Boost the ‘Boro will be finding opportunities to raise funds to assist the town’s businesses with needed repairs which will be ongoing.

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