Federal, state aid needed to offset winter costs

As the costs of last winter’s deep freeze damages continue to rise to near $20 million, we hope federal and state officials will continue to keep a keen eye cast on the severe impact the last historic winter had on this region.

Areas of the Upper Peninsula hit by problems caused by the cold temperatures and frost (which reached depths of nine feet in some places) have seen skyrocketing costs from frozen and broken water pipes and mains. These places are in need of funding to replenish public works budgets emptied in response to the severe situation.

A state emergency declaration was issued by Gov. Rick Snyder for Marquette County April 17, which made state resources available to local jurisdictions without cost. In May, Snyder added eight additional counties in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula to the Region 8 emergency list including Chippewa, Delta, Gogebic, Luce and Mackinac in the U.P. and Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties in the northern part of Lower Michigan.

Those counties are now jointly hoping for a presidential declaration which would make federal funds available to the region. Marquette County has incurred $6.5 million in damages or 34 percent of the $19.3 million total reported in Region 8.

With a required threshold of $13.7 million in damages surpassed for the region, state officials have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Chicago to assess the region’s damages, a necessary step in pursuing a presidential declaration.

Marquette County Emergency Management Program Coordinator Teresa Schwalbach said FEMA will sort out which expenses are eligible claims for funding and will delete others, hopefully still keeping the area – by the end of the preliminary damage assessment – above the $13.7 million threshold needed to receive federal funding.

We think this aid is vital to the region’s well-being and we are concerned about the devastating impact costs of the winter have had, not only on public works departments, but also on tourism and business incomes with some places – especially Ishpeming – with several streets still torn up.

Some area officials are hoping if federal aid is not delivered to the region, state coffers will supply some money to places struck hard by the winter’s devastating effects.

Whether it be state or federal money, the region is in true need of financial assistance and we hope that aid will be provided as soon as possible.