The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Officials discuss storm assistance programs


Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe

JUNE COLEMAN, chief of the Local Programs and Finance Section of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, second from right, speaks Friday morning at the Iron County Courthouse in Hurley, discussing assistance in the wake of the July 11 storm and flooding. From left are Mark Michie, of the Wisconsin Emergency Management; Gurney town chairman Tom Innes; Brian Satula, of Wisconsin Emergency Management; Col. Tim Covington, of the Wisconsin National Guard' Iron County Board Chair Joe Pinardi; Iron County Forestry office manager Tara Krall; Coleman and Bill Clark, of the Department of Natural Resources.

HURLEY - Fifteen officials from various state agencies met with nine Iron County and local town officials Friday to discuss assistance programs and other information in the wake of the July 11-12 storm and flooding.

Jerry Mentzel, of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said there are many avenues and agencies to help for the affected areas across the seven-county disaster area. Three other regional WDOT officials spoke about their work in Iron County and willingness to continue to work with local officials into the future.

Iron County Highway Commissioner Mike Swartz praised the WDOT's work. "They've been great, helping in any way they can. I can't say enough," he said.

Much of the discussion focused on paying for needed repairs to state and local roads, as well as Saxon Harbor. There are many washed out roads and the harbor was destroyed by the flood.

June Coleman of WDOT's Local Programs and Finance Section handed out a sheet explaining different levels of funding. She said if a presidential disaster declaration is made, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover 75 percent of damages, while Wisconsin Emergency Management will pay 12.5 percent, leaving the applicant to pay the remaining 12.5 percent.

Brian Satula, of Wisconsin Emergency Management, spoke about the process of securing the President's disaster declaration. He said FEMA would survey affected counties next week. Four FEMA teams are expected to begin work in Iron County on Tuesday morning. Satula said they will survey the damage and audit damage estimates, with the hope of being done by Friday. He said it could be a couple weeks after that before a federal disaster declaration is made, but he didn't want to set a concrete deadline for such a decision.

Iron County Emergency Director Stacy Ofstad said the DOT and many local officials have been working to collect damage estimates to roads and property.

Tom German, of the Board of Public Lands, talked about how his agency can help fund the amount needed to match disaster funding. He said they have more money than land, and can loan to any concern in the state, adding they do a lot of local government projects and try to keep things as simple as possible.

German said they charge 2.5 percent interest, with no fees for five years, and the rates go up for longer terms. He added profits go to support school libraries in the state.

Tara Krall, of the Iron County Forestry Department, asked about funding for the harbor, where damages have been estimated at more than $10 million. The DOT representatives said they'd be willing to help with whatever road projects, temporary or permanent, become part of the harbor restoration plan, but they don't have funding for harbors.

County A at the harbor is washed out in long stretches in two locations.

Satula suggested making a plan to rebuild the harbor so that it's better than before, and told about how a town was once moved out of a flood plain, making the place not the same as before the flood, but better and safer.

Ofstad said a new harbor could be three to five years out. "You just don't know at this point," he said.

Ofstad also talked about how businesses in and around the harbor, including the two taverns near the harbor, and the Frontier gas station and campground in Gurney, as well as several charter fishing boats - are suffering.

Jenny Kuderer, of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said it is working with Iron County Development Zone Director Kelly Klein on relief for local businesses.

Satula also talked about the availability of the Wisconsin National Guard. The Guard has manpower, machinery and fuel, it just doesn't have materials, he said.

The Guard's services are free, paid from a Wisconsin disaster fund until a federal disaster declaration is made, and then the Guard is reimbursed from the federal government.

Mark Michie, also of Wisconsin Emergency Management, said, "All they have to do is ask."

The group of 15 state officials moved on later Friday to similar meetings in Ashland and Hayward.


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