Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say they won't close their disaster recovery center in the Atlantic City - but they will relocate it.

FEMA will shut down its operation in room 201 at the Atlantic City Convention Center at 7 p.m. Sunday, then move it upstairs to room 311 to accommodate a previously scheduled realty trade show, FEMA Division Supervisor for Atlantic County Terra Flynn said.

Their plan is to operate in the alternate location for four or five days and then reopen in 2011 by 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 8 for an undetermined duration, Flynn said today.

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City officials were under the impression Monday the FEMA center likely would close Wednesday.

“I cannot say enough: register with FEMA. We're urging everyone to go over there immediately,” Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Foley cqsaid Monday.

People can register online or by phone as well. But staff at the center at the Atlantic City Convention Center includes representatives from the Small Business Administration, Section 8 and other welfare agencies that people might need to deal with in conjunction with their application for Federal Office of Emergency Management assistance.

Housing proved the most urgent need after the storm.

As a temporary shelter at the Convention Center prepared to close a couple weeks ago, dozens of people complained they had nowhere to go. Ultimately, the city and FEMA put up displaced residents in local hotels, while the Atlantic City Rescue Mission resumed helping clients who’d migrated to the shelter.

As of Monday, 26 Atlantic City residents remained in local hotel rooms.

“Our hope is that they got their transitional housing,” Foley said. “They are certainly eligible for it.”

Foley declined to say where those residents are being housed.

About 20, however, might not be able to go home for weeks. They are among the 97 residents of Liberty Apartments — the only structure in the city deemed unsafe since Sandy, City Construction Official Wally Shields said.

None of them can get into the building, which sits on Baltic Avenue between Kentucky and New York avenues, until its owner fixes the fire-suppression system, Foley said.

The main issue is the fire pump needs to be replaced. That could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take weeks to replace because the huge pieces of equipment are custom-fit, Shields said.

“(The owner’s) fire protection people are trying to come up with something,” Shields said. “Most of the problem with pumps, (is that) ... you don’t run down to Home Depot and pull one off the shelf. It takes weeks. Now, whether there's a used one out there somewhere they can use in the interim — that could work, but I don't know.”


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