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Freeborn County to receive FEMA funding

Published 10:41am Thursday, October 14, 2010

Freeborn County will receive funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in response to damages incurred during heavy rains that caused flooding on Sept. 22.

President Barack Obama signed a major disaster declaration Wednesday night, ordering federal aid to supplement recovery efforts of Freeborn County, along with 20 other counties across southern Minnesota.

Preliminary estimates peg total damages in all counties listed in the declaration at $64 million.

FEMA officials were in Freeborn County on Sept. 30, and preliminary estimates showed that there was about $189,708 in damages to infrastructure countywide. This total included estimated damages in the public infrastructure of Freeborn County along with townships, cities and the county ditch authority.

These are not estimates of private, individual home damages.

According to Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Mark Roche, FEMA funds to be received by Freeborn County are for public assistance only and will be for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities to local and state government and some nonprofit agencies. It’s not yet determined how much Freeborn County will receive.

“We did not get chosen for individual assistance,” he said.

He said that it usually takes a few months to receive the final funding, and currently the county is seeking additional assistance from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to offer individual assistance.

According to a statement released by Sen. Al Franken, the federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost to repair or replace public infrastructure in the designated counties. He said it also includes hazard mitigation funds that can help communities to take steps to prevent damage from future flooding.

Congressman Tim Walz was pleased about the declaration.

“This declaration relieves cities, counties and the state of a significant portion of the financial burden caused by the flooding,” Walz said in a statement released Thursday. “For residents of these communities, this means that local officials will not be forced to hike taxes to cover repairs.”

Walz said additional portions of this declaration are still under review, and he has encouraged FEMA to move quickly to finalize their review of the additional materials submitted by the State of Minnesota.

The declaration has prompted Gov. Tim Pawlenty to convene a special session for Monday. The proposal lawmakers will consider is aimed at helping to rebuild roads but also includes loans to individuals and grants to small businesses.

Other counties to receive FEMA assistance listed in Obama’s emergency declaration are Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Goodhue, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan and Winona.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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