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Callaway County agencies to seek federal aid for snow expenses

Callaway County agencies to seek federal aid for snow expenses

February 7th, 2011 in News

More than $183,000 has been spent by local governments in Callaway County to clear snow the last few days after a blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow throughout the county, a Callaway County official said Friday.

"That's a rough estimate of only snow clearing costs that we hope will be covered by partial federal reimbursement. The estimate does not include a lot of other costs that have not yet been figured," said Michelle Kidwell, director of the Callaway County Emergency Management Center.

Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson said the city already had calculated earlier this winter that it costs approximately $1,000 an hour to plow snow, figuring in labor, equipment and supplies.

"We've also been doing a lot of hauling off of snow this year that's not calculated in that figure," Johnson said, noting the city already had submitted its storm-related costs to Kidwell.

Western District Commissioner Doc Kritzer said cleanup for the storm will put a healthy dent in the budget, but the county should be okay.

"We'll have to make adjustments, but we'll get led through it," Kritzer said. "I think we're in pretty good shape.

You just have to deal with the emergency that's there and we'll find room in the budget."

He said the president's approval of a state of emergency for Missouri on Thursday - which will make partial federal reimbursement available - should help soften the blow.

Kidwell said for reimbursement purposes, expenses are figured on the highest cost 48-hour period of the emergency. Road crews were especially busy Monday through Wednesday.

"The rough estimates of snow plowing costs only during the busiest 48-hour period are Callaway County $95,000, City of Fulton $60,000, Holts Summit $20,000 and the other smaller cities in the county were from $1,200 to $1,500. This includes overtime, equipment breakage, and anything relating to snow removal," Kidwell said. "That doesn't account for law enforcement, or fire department or the ambulances or the EOC."

She said there is a conference call scheduled for Monday morning to discuss reimbursement for emergency work done by those public safety organizations. According to Kidwell, reimbursement for that emergency work will cover the entire time period of the storm.

"They're supposed to clarify what we can apply for, what the eligibility requirements are," Kidwell said of the call.

She said numerous thresholds must be cleared before the federal government will issue payments for emergency costs. The federal government's role is limited to direct federal reimbursement of state and local costs up to 75 percent of the amounts approved.

To qualify, Kidwell said Missouri's costs must exceed per capita thresholds for every person in the state. Then if the state qualifies, each county also must meet its cost threshold. The county's qualified expense must be more than $3.27 for every person in the county based on the latest census. Then all of the expenses submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are reviewed. Typically, several of them are rejected or reduced, Kidwell said.

Kidwell said the emergency declaration by FEMA is the first step in a long paperwork process to receive reimbursement for part of the county's costs associated with last week's blizzard.

Earlier, Gov. Jay Nixon had requested that the entire state of Missouri be declared eligible for federal disaster relief. President Barack Obama approved the request on Thursday with the relief payments handled by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

The federal assistance is authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, which was approved by Congress to save lives, protect property, public health and safety.

FEMA is authorized to "identify, mobilize and provide at its discretion equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."

Elizabeth Turner has been named as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in Missouri.

As Kidwell continues to work towards securing Callaway County's portion of those recovery dollars, Johnson said he is proud of how Fulton road crews handled the storm.

"The city crews in my opinion did a great job. They worked tirelessly - they take a lot of pride in getting the roads clear," Johnson said. "They did awesome. The citizens are fortunate to have this crew."

Kritzer said he was also was pleased with how county road and bridge crews handled the snow-induced crisis.

"Our guys felt really good about road conditions through Friday," Kritzer said Saturday. "We have 820 miles of roads and we had everything out, working through the night. We're really proud of our people and the condition they got the roads to by yesterday."

He said county officials will hold a storm critique session Monday afternoon.

"We'll review what we did - what worked well, what didn't, what to do different next time," Kritzer said.

(Editor's note: Reporter Katherine Cummins contributed to this report.)