Murray County hosts emergency flood meeting
SLAYTON -- Township and city officials in Murray County gathered inside the commissioners' board room Friday afternoon to listen to Emergency Management Director Jim Reinert speak about flooding issues and what they needed to do to qualify for a ...
SLAYTON -- Township and city officials in Murray County gathered inside the commissioners' board room Friday afternoon to listen to Emergency Management Director Jim Reinert speak about flooding issues and what they needed to do to qualify for a possible Presidential Disaster Declaration. As the officials gathered, they compared reports of flooded basements, washed out roads, backed up storm sewers and lagoons filling to capacity.
According to Reinert, the county needs at least $30,000 in damages to qualify for a FEMA grant.
"I would guess we are at that already," he said.
Reinert asked officials to start estimating and tabulating costs on the damage to public infrastructure, and told them to document and photograph all areas where destruction occurred. In the townships, a one-mile stretch of road would need to incur $1,000 in damage to qualify. If the declaration goes through, cities and townships could also claim time spent on protective measures such as putting out warning signs on flooded roads or the pumping of storm sewers to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed.
"Get good documentation," he stated. "Take pictures and have good records. We need to get started right away."
Reinert asked that reports be turned in by Tuesday or Wednesday so an official resolution could be made by the following Tuesday.
"Each township would be its own applicant and manage its own documentation and bookwork," he explained, adding that he and the county would assist in filling out the actual applications.
Reinert cautioned the entities not to expect the government to improve sites that had already been in disrepair.
"You are not going to be reimbursed to make improvements on things that weren't up to code," he said. "They are trying to make you whole again. They are trying to give you money to bring you back to where you were."
If the declaration goes through, the federal government could pick up the tab for as much as 75 percent of the repairs, Reinert explained.
"They paid 75 percent of the eligible costs for the first floods (elsewhere in the state) this spring," he explained. "You'll be responsible for 25 percent of the costs."
Reinert also told officials to be expedient in making repairs.
"We've got about 60 days and then we might be looking at big snow," he said.
It isn't a guarantee that money spent will be reimbursed, but Reinert said the county "has a fairly good shot." He encouraged officials to get out and conduct road tours if they hadn't already, and to take plenty of pictures.
"What if we have graders out fixing the problem areas right now?" a township official asked. "What if we haven't taken pictures?"
"Go get some," Reinert replied, then said if a problem could be solved by simply grading a road, it probably wouldn't have qualified for the $1,000 limit.
Murray County Engineer Randy Groves said the county is already documenting and fixing problems such as washouts of gravel and shoulders on many roads. He reminded officials to tabulate the expense of recovering gravel that may clog ditch systems when making their estimates.
Murray County Board Chair John Giese asked each township and city what damage they had experienced. Representing Lime Lake Township, Denny Opdahl reported something he considered a record event -- the water coming over the dam in Avoca was so high it was going over the catwalk that crosses the dam. There were reports of water in basements and closed roads, but little structural damage.
The cities of Fulda and Slayton reported their fire departments had been out Wednesday pumping out storm sewers.
"Our department went out at about 10 p.m. Wednesday night and stayed out all night," Fulda City Clerk Michelle Baumhoefner said. "Then they set up shifts for filling the pumps."
To qualify for a secretarial disaster, at least 30 percent of a particular crop would need to be damaged county-wide. Crop damages are currently being assessed.
Reinert said the county should know within approximately two weeks if the Presidential Declaration would be made. In the meantime, he encouraged townships and counties to assess damages and repairs as if they were spending their own money.
"After all," he said, "we are spending our own money."