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Limited tornado payback to some

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Limited tornado payback to some
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

In an announcement by Dickinson City Commission members Wednesday evening, several area agencies will not see federal reimbursement for damage and cleanup costs from a July 8 tornado.

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Some agencies' bills are minimal and others are facing bills in the ballpark of $400,000 and $90,000 each.

While the city did not qualify for an independent federal emergency declaration, it will continue to work under a federal spring flooding declaration, said City Administrator Shawn Kessel in an e-mail Wednesday evening.

"This means that individual property owners remain eligible for FEMA and SBA (Small Business Administration) assistance, but public entities will only receive limited reimbursement," Kessel said.

Mayor Dennis Johnson said the only costs covered for public agencies are those deemed to fall in the category of "emergency protective measures" not previously funded by the city or county. These "emergency protective measures" include services such as police overtime, fire overtime, labor and equipment to clear the streets and search and rescue, Johnson said.

Kessel said the cost share formula is comprised of 75 percent federal, 22 percent state and 3 percent local.

"The unqualified expenses, we'll have to pay ourselves as a community," Johnson said. "I don't think those expenses by themselves will cause the city a financial hardship."

While the expenses may not cause a full-blown financial hardship, the city's pocketbook will feel the effects of Mother Nature.

"We are going to feel some pressure (on the budget) because we've had two major weather events to experience if you count the winter as one event and the tornado as another," Johnson said, regarding above-average snowfall.

James Kramer, director of Parks and Recreation, said the department has about $60,000 in damages not covered by insurance and such amounts exclude the cost of replacing 378 lost trees, valued at $378,000.

"We have an emergency fund that we've accumulated $100,000 in over the past three or four years in case of an emergency just like this," Kramer said.

Kramer said equipment-usage hours, labor hours, volunteer hours and contracted labor are also not included in any reimbursed costs.

Mary Massad, manager and chief operating officer of Southwest Water Authority, said they may be facing several bills, but the decision rests on previous FEMA events from the spring. Massad said the authority is not only looking at a bill of approximately $42,700 but may also receive one from Roughrider Electric for $90,000 for replacement of a transmission line that feeds a sub-station for a pump station.

The water authority is looking at additional charges including $3,000 for fuel for a generator at a Richardton pump station and an additional $2,500 for staff overtime, Massad said. They also had to replace 1,500 to 1,800 feet of plastic woven fence surrounding sludge ponds which are used to house byproducts from the water treatment process.

Funds deemed "Repairs and Extraordinary Maintenance" were established by the Legislature when the water authority began, Massad said. Although the water authority deposits into that fund monthly, the State Water Commission must approve use of any of those funds for reimbursement, Massad said.

Deborah Zillich, director of finance and administration for Roughrider Electric, did not return a phone call or e-mail for comment, however Johnson and Massad, who both attended the meeting, said they believe Roughrider Electric is facing a bill of more than $400,000.

Hal Haynes, vice president for student development at Dickinson State University, said the non-reimbursable costs to the university are very minimal. Haynes said DSU housed 12 people who lost homes in the tornado, for two weeks at a total cost of about $1,680. The university considers the cost an "in-kind" donation.

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