RALEIGH, N.C. — Time is almost up for some Hurricane Katrina evacuees who sought refuge in Raleigh. After two and a half weeks, the
Wake County Hurricane Disaster Victim Center
will close at 5 p.m. Friday.
Wake County leaders set aside $2 million to operate the center, which housed Katrina evacuees. That amounts to more than $4,000 per evacuee. Now that it's closing, the money actually spent comes in well bellow what local leaders estimated, and the leaders and evacuees applaud the result.
"I came here with just a pair of pants and no shoes. They took real good care of me," evacuee Dave Blache said. "It's like a blessing really."
At its height, the shelter housed about 400 evacuees. With the assistance of volunteers and the Red Cross, local governments set up the shelter and provided security, transportation and transitional support.
"All that adds up over time," Wake County health director Gibbie Harris said.
Harris said a major cost was renting the building that housed the evacuees.
Anthony and Company, which owned the former Nortel corporate training center that was transformed into the recovery center, charged $138,000. In all, employee overtime and shelter expenses cost about $650,000.
So, why did the county set aside $2 million?
Harris said the county estimated high to ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursed local costs.
"We gave them what we thought was a fairly solid estimate for at least three to four months," she said.
Tony Gurley, a member of
the Wake County Board of Commissioners
, said he believes meeting the needs of the evacuees justifies the taxpayer costs.
"I'm comfortable that we're doing things as efficiently and as responsible as we can," Gurley said. "We wanted to do our part for people that have been displaced."
For most of the evacuees in Raleigh, that sentiment leaves an impression.
"North Carolina has shown me plenty, plenty, plenty of love, and I'd like to make this my home forever," evacuee Jackie Landry said.
County leaders added that with Hurricane Rita's impact uncertain, Wake County remains on standby to receive more evacuees.