Officials assess storm damage around county

May, June weather could result in federal assistance

Posted 8/16/15

The Elbert County Office of Public Works and the Office of Emergency Management joined Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives in surveying parts of the county during the week of Aug. 10. The teams have been taking pictures, making …

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Officials assess storm damage around county

May, June weather could result in federal assistance

Posted

The Elbert County Office of Public Works and the Office of Emergency Management joined Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives in surveying parts of the county during the week of Aug. 10. The teams have been taking pictures, making measurements, and fixing the GPS coordinates required to document and assess the damage to the county's infrastructure resulting from the heavy rains during the months of May and June.

“They are about 90 percent complete. They have visited a total of 40 sites across the county,” Brandon Lenderink, director of the Elbert County Office of Emergency Management, told the county commissioners at a meeting on Aug. 12.

Lenderink and FEMA have identified two priorities for the immediate future: first, identifying areas where the county made its emergency response, and second, debris removal. The debris will be collected, staged and eventually processed. After reviewing the program, Lenderink told the commissioners that he was 90 percent sure that the county would participate in FEMA's debris removal program.

“The whole purpose of this is to bring things back to where they were before or make them better than they were before,” he said.

Lenderink estimates that the damage to the county's infrastructure, especially to roads, from the spring storms could easily exceed $1.2 million, which is significantly higher than the $86,000 threshold for the county to apply for disaster relief.

According to County Manager Ed Ehmann, the county has the reserves to meet the requirement, but he warned that the dollar amount is likely to change.

“That $1.2 million is just an estimate (of the damage),” Ehmann told the commissioners. “We'll continue to monitor to ensure we can meet our obligation for the match requirement.”

Neither Ehmann nor Lenderink could say when the county might see some of the money, but if all goes according to plan, the federal government would reimburse Elbert County for 75 percent of the cost for repairs, leaving the county responsible for matching the remaining 25 percent.

Additionally, the county may qualify for a hardship from the State of Colorado, which could contribute approximately 50 percent of the match or 12.5 percent of the total repair costs.

Lenderink said that working with FEMA has been a learning experience, and he has taken away some valuable lessons to apply to future events.

“We've already found some gaps that we are going to work on down the road,” he said. “There are a lot of nooks and crannies to how FEMA does things, and we want to make sure that the next time this rolls out that we're ready for it.”

There are currently 14 counties in Colorado applying for disaster relief for damage resulting from the spring rains.

“Since Elbert County was one of the first ones to start the kickoff meetings,” Lenderink said, “we want to ensure we have good pace as other counties get things moving too. There are a lot of working parts to this as other counties make declarations.”

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