What does FEMA funding mean for Marshalltown?

T-R FILE PHOTO Winds from the July 19, EF-3 tornado twisted the Veterans Memorial Coliseum sign above the building’s State Street entrance. Additionally, the building’s roof was torn off and landed on city hall, according to city officials. That and repair expense from other damage may be eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Marshalltown and Marshall County officials are ecstatic with news federal disaster assistance is available to the city and county for expenses incurred from the July 19 EF-3 tornado.

“This (declaration) is big,” City Administrator Jessica Kinser said. “It took a little bit longer to get to yes, but it is a major positive that puts the city and other governmental bodies in a better financial position dealing with substantial costs associated with the disaster.”

Kinser’s comments were echoed by Marshall County Emergency Coordinator Kim Elder.

“I am hopeful Marshall County and Marshalltown will be at least partially reimbursed for all repairs to public buildings, overtime paid out for debris removal and bringing in structural engineers to assess damages,” Elder said. “We will be meeting with FEMA next week to receive additional details. They will tell us exactly what to expect. We will begin preparing work sheets and looking at eligible expenses.”

FEMA Public Assistance can fund the repair, restoration, reconstruction or replacement of a public facility or infrastructure damaged or destroyed by a disaster. FEMA will provide a reimbursement grant of 75 percent of eligible costs, with the state and local governments sharing the remaining 25 percent.

The aid was approved by President Donald Trump and is a part of money going to “the state of Iowa to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms and tornadoes July 19, 2018,” according to the announcement made Wednesday.

In order to receive FEMA funding, the state had to assess the ability of local governments to recover from the tornado damage. Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster declaration and letter to Trump, signifying the damage was deemed too great for local and state recovery capabilities.

“What the announcement means is this: It is a public assistance declaration for assistance to governmental bodies,” Kinser said. “It is not assistance to individual residents. However, we still have active request for individual assistance in, but no determination has been made yet. It has not been denied and has not been approved.”

Kinser said the city incurred substantial expenses in debris clean-up and damages to city buildings. She identified the Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the city building which suffered the most damage. The facility’s roof was ripped off and landed on city hall. Additionally, falling debris caused damages to the sprinkler system which led to water damage.

The damage was so severe to the nearly 91-year-old structure city officials called in Belfor — a company specializing in damage restoration.

City Hall was closed for repairs which required almost five weeks. Several city departments had to move to the Marshalltown Public Library and several city council meetings were held there, too.

Additionally there was damage to the city-owned Senior Citizens Center Building on East State Street. It is unclear exactly how much damage was done there.

The Marshall County Courthouse suffered in estimated $15.5 million in damages and the costs could go higher. It has been closed to the public beginning July 20, with many county offices moved to Great Western Bank. A Chicago-based restoration company was hired to clean-up the facility.

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer, along with mayors in other affected communities, met Trump briefly a few days after the tornado while the president visited Dubuque.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and tornadoes in Lee, Marion, Marshall and Van Buren counties.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures within the state, according to the announcement.

Timothy J. Scranton has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Scranton said additional designations may be made at a later date if warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com