BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH - They're hoping to reach the $2 million mark, but Pendleton County officials are happy with $38,000.
''We want the money to go to the residents, businesses and local government that needs it,'' Economic Development Director Jack Wright said Monday.
Officials are celebrating the more than $38,000 donated to the Falmouth Flood Disaster Relief Fund since its creation less than a month ago.
Funds have come from 15 states, along with letters of hope and encouragement.
Students at A.D. Owens Elementary School raised $706 with a schoolwide penny drive.
Other donors sent money because they saw Falmouth on TV.
One woman wrote saying she could not afford to send cash but would sew new clothes for anyone who needed them.
In Pendleton County, the March 1 floods caused $36.5 million in damages, with 200 homes destroyed and 300 more being torn down because of structural damage.
Five people were killed and thousands were left homeless.
Butler, Falmouth and Pendleton officials said they want to use the money to help anyone who needs it.
They are setting up a committee to help distribute the funds.
The idea is to fill in the gaps the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance might leave, said Phil Turner, Farmers National Bank president.
Officials, meanwhile, are working to tap into public sentiment about a buyout program.
Residents are filling out and turning in ballots on the issue.
The votes should be tallied by Friday.
They have until April 30 to file an application for FEMA money to relocate the town.
But officials also are working to gain the support of county, state and federal leaders in an attempt to secure funds for a flood protection system.
Mike Lynch, FEMA hazard mitigation officer, said relocations are the priority, with grant requests for flood protection to be considered later.