A group of about a dozen Ames residents who say Dodge County is accountable for some of the damages incurred on their properties during last month’s flooding will likely not receive financial assistance from the county, officials said during a county board meeting on Wednesday.
Those residents appeared before the board for the second meeting in a row, echoing their April 10 claims that the county’s decision to put a temporary dike across U.S. Highway 30 near their homes caused water to pool in higher than normal amounts on their properties and that they had received no prior evacuation notices.
County officials told the Tribune earlier this month that the dike was necessary to prevent Platte River water from spreading further into the county and into the city of Fremont. And while they expressed sympathy for the residents’ plights, on Wednesday, they told residents that they would likely be unable to provide financial assistance to the residents’ damages.
That’s because the county — both in its “ability and even statutorily” — must focus its efforts on fixing public infrastructure throughout the county, according to Board Chairman Bob Missel. That effort on its own will likely require a bond to address costly near-term fixes until federal disaster assistance is available to reimburse the county.
Missel advised the residents to continue pushing their claims through the individual assistance program offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“This board has been very sensitive to everyone that’s been adversely affected by this flood, and we’re sorry for the situation that you find yourselves in today,” Missel said. “However, I don’t see a path for county funding to a private residence, as long as the program to public assistance (through FEMA) is open.”
Residents, meanwhile, expressed disappointment with the FEMA process, saying the agency wouldn’t cover some of their biggest expenses, or in some cases, any of their expenses.
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Rick and Jeanne Ward, for instance, said the money offered by FEMA would not cover even half of the cost of their destroyed furnace, let alone damages to vehicles or other possessions that were destroyed when their basement flooded.
Others, like Joseph Holeman, say the flooding caused significant damage to their land. But Holeman says he was told he was not eligible for FEMA assistance because water didn’t enter into the physical structure of his house.
“That’s going to take a heck of a lot of value away from my property, but I doubt I will see my taxes go down or my property valuations go down,” Holeman told the board. “I lost a lot of my property. It washed into that lake.”
Some have appealed FEMA’s determinations and are awaiting responses. Those who attended Wednesday’s meeting continued to push the county to take accountability for the damages. They claimed again that they did not receive notification that the dike was being constructed, and were unable to take appropriate precautions.
Missel did not totally rule out the possibility of assistance, as the county officially received all of the residents’ damage claims — “a board member could take action to re-look at it in the future. Anything is possible.”
But there could be other options for residents down the line: Dodge County Emergency Manager Tom Smith noted that the county will be working to create a “long-term recovery group,” along with nonprofits — both on the local and national level. That is expected to help residents with expenses not covered by FEMA.
Missel noted that the board would share the claims with that long-term recovery group to see what could be done. In that case, those claims would likely be given case numbers and would have no names attached to them.