Gulfport City Council Extends FEMA Trailer Deadline

There are still more than FEMA trailers on private property in the city of Gulfport, and about 200 more on commercial and group sites. That adds up to about a thousand too many for Gulfport city leaders.

"Play time is over," said Ward 4 Councilman Jackie Smith. "Now we've got to get something done."

That was the purpose of a workshop Thursday involving council members, FEMA and MEMA officials, and others concerned about the lack of progress in getting people out of FEMA trailers.

"December the 31st is the time that we said that we were going to try and get rid of all our trailers in this situation," Smith said.

But Smith says that deadline will now be extended another 30 days, as they embark on an effort to find out who deserves more time, and who doesn't.

"We're going to go around and look at these and see who's progressing and who's not progressing. And if we see non-activity going on, we're going to be looking at situations such as fines, because we've got to do something in the city and move forward."

Sid Melton, FEMA's Transitional Recovery Director, says the idea is not to punish residents, but to help them progress.

"Whether they're waiting on insurance or waiting on funds to come in, or working to move them into a rental resource that may be a little above and beyond that we're going to assist on payments, then that's what we're going to do," Melton said.

But he says those found abusing the system will be punished.

"If we find that there's people that's mis-utilizing federal assets, then we're going to work to get the federal assets back in and get it off properties."

And Councilman Smith says the time for that is now.

"This is the time that we have to do something."

Smith says letters will be going out in the coming weeks, notifying trailer occupants of the coming inspections. He says they'll likely keep extending the deadline month by month, with the goal that by this time next year, all FEMA trailers will be gone.