County may receive funding from FEMA

Clermont County could receive federal funding to help repair damages left by the storms and massive amount of rain thanks to local and state emergency management agencies.

The Clermont County Emergency Management Agency, along with representatives from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), met June 9 to discuss damages in Clermont County and come up with a rough estimate of what repairs will cost.

“Why we’re here is because of the extraordinary weather event that occurred before April until now,” said Keven Clouse, of the Ohio EMA. “We believe we have met the threshold to get federal assistance.”

Clouse is responsible for assessing damages in several Ohio counties including Adams, Brown, Hamilton, Pike and Scioto. June 9 he covered Clermont County, which he said had a significant amount of damages from the weather events.

Not only did the rain lead to landslides and many issues affecting roadways, but there were also damages to buildings and structures from lightning and storms.

“It’s kind of a unique event,” Clouse said about the storms and heavy rain.

Unique in the fact that the damages did not happen in one day, but rather, occurred over multiple months this spring. This made it harder for emergency management officials, along with the county engineer, to determine when the damages happened and what caused the damages.

Clermont County’s damages fall under the public assistance category to receive funding. The category helps political subdivisions, special districts, local or regional authorities, public schools and non-profit organizations.

The county will receive funding if damages can be identified as immediate threats to the public’s health and safety or impact to public infrastructure.

“Because of the economy, any assistance we can get is helpful,” said Beth Nevel, director of the Clermont County EMA.

Clermont County had damages that fell into three of the seven categories of the public assistance damage assessment, including roads and bridges, emergency protective measures and building, equipment and contents damages.

One of the most significant damages in the county fell under emergency protective measures. The damage was caused by lightning strike that affected one of the emergency control towers, a 800 mhz trunked system that is used by emergency service personnel. The estimated cost of repair is $17,995.84.

Todd Gadbury of the Clermont County Engineer’s office discussed the damages that fell under the roads and bridges category at the meeting. He listed five major storm damages to roadways in the county that included Locust Corner Road, Slaven Road, Goebel Hill, Old SR 28, Chilo Cemetery McKendre Chapel and Old SR 74.

The roads Gadbury listed all sustained landslide-related damages because of the excessive rain. Old SR 28 was limited to one lane because the road has begun to fail. Gadbury gathered contracting estimates for each of the five roads, which totaled $1,375,000 in repairs.

The county also had building, equipment and contents damages which includes public buildings that sustained damage to structural components, interior systems, equipment etc. Agency officials estimated damages in this category at $5,113.15.

The total estimated damage assessment for the county was $1,375,000. Nevel said the damages can only be estimated because the price could change once a contractor is hired to repair the damages, especially when they begin to see what they are working with.

Kimberly Settles, preliminary damage assessment specialist for FEMA, collected the list of damages and estimates at the meeting. Settles will meet with additional FEMA representatives to come up with a final estimate for damages in the state of Ohio.

Once it is presented, Nevel said the federal government can decide what amount, if any, to reimburse the county for the damages. She said sometimes FEMA money will only cover part of the cost, and state and local governments will be responsible for the rest.

“The cost, if we don’t get any assistance, means projects aren’t going to get completed that are planned,” Clouse said.

If local governments have to make the repairs themselves Clouse said the money will come from the public works fund, which means projects already needed and planned in the county will get put on hold.

Decisions about funding will be made in the coming weeks.