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Kelleher tells county board "flood victims need to apply"

Fri, Jan 11th, 2008
Posted in Government

PRESTON - With the new year the county board elected a new chairman, Randy Dahl, and a new vice-chairman, Chuck Amunrud. Dahl started by again thanking everyone involved in the flood recovery effort including city and county staffs and the many volunteers.

Kevin Kelleher, Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), repeated the thanks for all the help and then updated the board on the recovery progress. He recognized the tendency, in every disaster for the victim who is looking at the rubble and remains of a home or business, to expect and demand immediate help and a lot of it. He added that the response was faster than ever before in Minnesota, however, state and local governments had a "hell of a learning curve." Kelleher continues to meet regularly with fourteen state agencies and three to five federal agencies. He said that there was over $200,000,000 in requests to cover damages. Monies distributed have to be accounted for and it takes time to sort out where the need is greatest.

Kelleher was disturbed and baffled by the number of people who have failed to apply for the resources that have been allocated especially funds from the Quick Start Forgivable Loan Program. The deadline for applications is January 14, 2008. People had to first apply for an SBA loan and the Quick Start Program was generally directed to those denied SBA loans. SBA loans are federally funded and federal money has to be denied first. Kelleher stated that 500 cards were sent out to possible recipients and as of this day funds have been committed to 236 applicants and another 130 applications are in progress. Some individuals have chose to walk away from their property and others may have other circumstances preventing them from following though with the process. Kelleher noted that some just don't want to deal with the paper work and he added that it just doesn't work that way. He again emphasized that people need to work through the applications. Where possible and when the need was recognized some help was directed to those who needed help filling out the forms.

Mr. Kelleher noted that even some local governments needed help because of lack of staffing to make their applications for Public Infrastructure Assistance. This aid is for governmental units and their expenses not covered by FEMA. For example, FEMA will cover damage to city sewer systems, but will not cover the expense of running cameras down through the lines to locate and determine damage.

Kelleher explained that in his opinion the Minnesota emergency legislation was very well crafted in that it allows excess money in one pot to be transferred to another pot when needed. He added that with the speed of the legislative session, not all the numbers may have been accurate.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asked if any funds could be available for buyouts in flood plain areas. Kelleher said that the DNR has a program to buy out at 50% of market value. Now additional money may help get that figure toward 100%. Also, it may be possible to buy out the value of a structure and leave the property owner with the land which would be restricted for building.

Hazard Mitigation Plan

Deborah Teske, Emergency Management, discussed with the board the hiring of a consultant to help the county develop a Hazard Mitigation Plan. Houston County is working to build their plan. Kelleher noted that Houston County is to interview three firms on January 15 to decide who to hire. Amunrud was concerned that none of the consultants would guarantee the work to be done in the next six months or so. Teske added that the county needs new aerial flood maps.

Commissioner Duane Bakke stressed that the county just needed to get the plan done as soon as possible knowing that it would not be perfect. He expects that it will need revisions in a couple of years. Teske added that federal government requires the plan be updated every five years.

Fillmore County has one year from the date of the disaster, August 18, 2007, or with an extension an additional six months from that date to complete the plan and have it approved to be eligible to apply for up to $10,000,000 from FEMA. The board agreed to have the Emergency Management Committee which meets on January 15 to discuss and interview the consultant firms. The committee will then send a recommendation to the board for their January 22 meeting.

Social Services

Social Service Director Thomas Boyd asked for and received approval to advertise for a new Financial Worker in his department. He said that the "push down" from both the state and federal governments increases the complexity and the amount of work required for the county.

Boyd received approval to enter into an agreement with Houston, Mower, Freeborn, Steele, Dodge, Waseca, Winona, and Wabasha Counties to regionally purchase contract management services from Olmsted County in 2008. He explained that the regional agreement helps providers come up with a regional rate and helps provide consistency in service. The ten counties go together to provide this service and the cost to Fillmore County is around $6,000. He hopes to bill back about half of the cost. The management services contract person will have an office in Rochester. Boyd suggested that the contract person will help the county avoid having to make paybacks for not being in compliance with contract issues. This is not part of the county's plans to enter into County Based Purchasing.

Other Business

• The board agreed to donate two used computers to the Fillmore County Historical Society.

• Marc Sather asked the board to support the Preston Historical Society's effort to get a Transportation Equity Act (TEA-21) grant to fund a project to rebuild a bagging house, scale house, and dock near the Preston Historic Elevator as it was in the 1930's. The county agreed to write a letter in support of the Historical Society and to administer the grant if it were to be awarded. The cost share grant money could be $100,000 to as much as $250,000.

• John (Jack) O'Donnell was appointed Chief Deputy Sheriff and his salary was set at $65,192.39.

• The Fillmore County Journal offered the low bids for the county's official newspaper and the printer of the first financial statement and the delinquent tax list and the board awarded the work to the Journal. Bluff Country Reader had the low bid for additional legal notices and was awarded that work. The Republican Leader will print the second run of the financial statement.

Bidders for the newspaper were asked to include their approximate circulation across the county. The Fillmore County Journal and the Bluff County Reader both are distributed to close to or over 9,000 households in Fillmore County. The Republican Leader goes to 950 Fillmore County subscribers.

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