Mounds of tornado strewn debris are piled behind houses and apartments on Troy Street and Kelly Avenue. Repairs are underway or waiting for insurance settlements in communities throughout the Dayton area one month after the Memorial Day tornadoes tore through many neighborhoods. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Feds could pay cities, counties up to 75% for costly tornado cleanup

Area cities expect to rack up millions in expenses to clean up and rebuild after the Memorial Day tornadoes. On Monday, state and federal officials laid out a roadmap to recovering up to 75 percent of those costs.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency makes available funds reimbursing cities, counties and school districts up to 75 percent of the cost associated with recovering from the May 27 tornadoes.

COMPLETE COVERAGE ON TORNADO RECOVERY: Get help, watch video and more

Expenses tied to debris removal, repairing roads and bridges, repairs to water distribution facilities, emergency measures and other projects could be eligible for federal reimbursement.

FEMA determines whether a local expense is eligible, and funds are administered by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said Laura Adcock, public assistance officer with the latter agency.

Paul Gruner, Montgomery County engineer, said the funds are important. While he could not offer exact figures, many of these costs that cities and municipalities are shouldering will be considerable, he said.

“It’s significant,” Gruner said, referring to Montgomery County’s expenses so far. “Six figures, for sure.”

Montgomery County alone has tracked 7,000 truckloads of debris trucked to grinders at solid waste facilities, Gruner said.

At the end of June, Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials gave FEMA a preliminary damage estimate of $18.1 million in eligible costs statewide. About $12 million of that was debris removal. Montgomery County accounted for a bulk of total estimate, $12 million, according to the county.

“We’ve been tracking everything from the very beginning,” Gruner said.

Debris has been taken typically to “huge grinders,” one at a facility in Moraine and another at a facility at the former Forest Park shopping center in Harrison Twp., he said.

Beavercreek City Manager Pete Landrum said the city has estimated that its tornado-related expenses will total about $2 million

The prospect of a FEMA reimbursement is welcome indeed, he said. Beavercreek is hugely reliant on property taxes. Only property tax levies for the city’s streets fund and its general fund can be used for clean-up work.  Property taxes for police or parks purposes cannot be used. 

“It’s tremendous,” he said of the FEMA reimbursement. “Beavercreek is the largest city in Ohio without an income tax … we have very limited resources. Most of our resources are property tax levies. They’re segregated levies.”

Adcock walked representatives of local governments and school districts through an application process Monday in a meeting at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Dayton.

Applicants to the program will be assigned a FEMA agent. Applicants will be expected to meticulously identify costs and spending, complete damage inventory forms, complete quarterly progress reports and in some cases, submit to audits.

Applications forms and other documents were passed out to meeting participants. While Adcock explained the application steps, she encouraged municipalities to do the work they need to do when they need to do it.

“If you can do it, do it,” she said. When cities have completed their work, they can present those costs to FEMA for possible reimbursement, she said. Ongoing or incomplete recovery projects, however, may have to submit to “site inspections.”

The federal government issued a major disaster declaration for 11 affected Ohio counties June 18. Counties affected include Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Darke and other counties.

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