Red tape flows after floodingMADISON — As they begin looking for financial help to rebuild nearly $2 million in public infrastructure damaged during the June floods, officials in three northwestern counties say they are now dealing with the red tape that comes with government money.
By: By Kevin Murphy/For the Superior Telegram , Superior Telegram
MADISON — As they begin looking for financial help to rebuild nearly $2 million in public infrastructure damaged during the June floods, officials in three northwestern counties say they are now dealing with the red tape that comes with government money.
“The state is quicker (than the Federal Emergency Management Agency),” said Emmer Shields, Ashland County highway commissioner. “That’s important to towns where a flood can really impact their road budget for a year.”
Flood damage costs can total what a town annually spends on road budgets, said Lance Burger, a Department of Transportation regional engineer in Superior.
Towns repair their roads, apply for state and federal reimbursement grants and pay bills by borrowing against the anticipated grant amounts while they wait for the state and federal checks to come, said Burger.
The Douglas County town of Summit did so in 2010, after it submitted a $134,000 claim for an August flood event.
It took 14 months for the DOT’s Flood Damage Aid program to send the town of Ashland a check for partial reimbursement for road repairs from a 2010 flood, said Bob Schutte, town chair.
“We rob Peter to pay Paul, and delay some projects because who budgets for a flood,” Schutte said.
Janice Watzke, the DOT’s Flood Damage Aid program manager, said paperwork must be complete, including producing documentation of costs incurred, before she can write checks from the program’s $600,000 annual appropriation.
“Last month I just finished up 2010 requests, which isn’t unusual,” she said.
To receive 75 percent reimbursement for road repairs attributed to flood loss, local governments petition a DOT regional office, which sends out Burger in Region 8 to verify the claim. Burger submits it to Madison where Watzke said she could process a completed application within a month.
To date seven local governments in Ashland County, 10 in Bayfield and 10 in Douglas have petitioned the DOT for flood damage aid for 174 total sites, said Burger, the most in the six years he has been in Superior.
The state may be quicker than FEMA to process requests because the amount of money is usually smaller; some checks are for $1,500, said Watzke, while FEMA won’t qualify repairs that cost less than $5,000.
Bayfield County Administrator Mark Abeles-Alison said while some town roads were damaged slightly from June flood that followed heavy May rains, more rain and subsequent damage occur in Douglas County.
Last week the state of Wisconsin announced it was seeking nearly $7 million from FEMA for reimbursement to local governments in northwest counties where public infrastructure was damaged by the June 19-20 flood.
Small businesses, homeowners and renters can now apply for low interest loans to repair flood-damaged real estate. Applications are accepted through Aug. 9 at the Disaster Loan Outreach Center at the Superior Business Center, 1423 N. Eighth St. Officials from the Small Business Administration will staff the center to answer questions and assist with applications.