Historically, officials say, it takes about a year to be reimbursed once a qualifying application for assistance is made. But this year, the process hasn't even started for many claims from last October.
(TNS) — Nearly a dozen residents showed up at last week's quarterly Medora Township Board meeting seeking answers about road repairs in the township in connection with flooding last spring and the previous fall.
The group left a little more informed about the work that's been done, and the township's struggles in addressing them due to limited funding.
They received no answers, however, in terms of when or what future work might be done to get their roads back to normal and heavily silted ditches cleaned out.
That's because township officials themselves are waiting on answers from state and federal officials, so they have no clue when money to assist with repairs might flow in.
A big disaster
It's a similar story countywide — and statewide — after the Kansas Division of Emergency Management was inundated with damage claims due to several significant storm events that occurred last October and in April and May.
"(The April/May) disaster covered 70 counties, with +/- 550 applicants," Jane Welch, acting director of public affairs with the Adjutant General's Department, stated in an email, relaying a response from the Kansas Division of Emergency Management about pending assistance applications.
That includes 24 applications from just within Reno County itself, Welch stated.
"So, it will be some time before we are able to work all the projects and get them submitted to FEMA," the email continued. "We have already begun working with several of Reno County's applicants, and we will continue to push forward to get to all applicants as soon as possible ... We don't have an exact date when someone will be out there. Our staff is working as quickly as they can, but due to the size and magnitude of this disaster, it will take time."
Historically, local officials said, it takes about a year to be reimbursed once a qualifying application for assistance is made.
This year, however, things are so backed up, the process hasn't even started for many claims from last October.
That's when some parts of the state, including Reno County, received close to a foot of rain over 10 days.
Officials said 91 agencies, including Medora Township and nine others in Reno County, filed claims for assistance from the early October damages.
Then in May, another 16 inches of precipitation fell, with rain recorded on 19 days of the month, including two days with more than 3 inches each.
At one point, nearly six dozen roads were closed in the county due to high water. A couple still remained closed due to bridge damage.
In Medora Township, Township Trustee Russell Robinson estimated 40 miles of the townships 52 miles of road had damage from the flooding, either in October or April.
"We didn't have one road that didn't have a washout," Township Treasurer Steve Thetford said. "Some were just minor, but for some, it completely washed out the road, and we had to haul in material to get it open."
He couldn't say precisely how much the township has spent on road repairs so far, but the township's application for assistance was close to $100,000 in October and topped $200,000 in May.
The latter figure is more than the township's annual budget for road repair and maintenance. It was also the second largest amount sought by a township in the state for repairs, Thetford said they were told.
"We apologize that you have rough roads, but we've run out of money," Thetford told the board audience. "We robbed a lot of Peter to pay Paul. We pulled money from projects we were going to do. We abandoned a lot of things we had planned for this year to make up for what we lost in the floods."
"There's a lot left to be done," Robinson said. "We've got all the roads open, but there's a long way to go."
That includes replacing driveway crossings that were washed out, putting more rock on some roads that were repaired but remain low, and re-excavating ditches.
It could take three years, once they are reimbursed, to get back on a regular maintenance schedule, Robinson estimated. That will set back efforts to keep ditches clean of trees and silt, potentially contributing to future flooding from lesser levels of runoff.
...and their neighbors
Also hard hit from the floods were neighboring Grant and Salt Creek townships.
Salt Creek Township Treasurer Don Yoder estimated its damages there topped $75,000.
"It had a big impact," Yoder said. "We had a lot of flooded roads, washed-out culverts and ditches that filled up. We're still working on it. Some of the repairs we can't do until the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) money promised comes in, and we don't know when that will happen ... A lot of repairs probably won't get done until next summer because we're out of money."
"We got hit pretty hard," said Grant Township Trustee Randy Moore, though he had no idea on the dollar estimate of damages. "We've still got a lot to do to get it all fixed up the way we want. The damage was pretty widespread."
He's been on the board 11 years, Moore said, and damage this year is the worst he's experienced.
"The Arkansas River got out, which destroyed a lot more roads than we had last time," he said. "But Cow Creek is the main one."
"All our roads are open and passable," Moore said. "We had to get them open so the buses could get through. But a lot of work that needs to be done."
No list of what agencies applied for aid or the amounts sought were available from the county or state, but the three townships north of Hutchinson had some of the highest numbers of road closures.
Kansas Emergency Management officials hosted a meeting in the county after the April floods, but they've heard nothing since.
"We feel like things got put on hold," Salt Creek's Yoder said. "It's pretty much at a standstill. It's really frustrating."
For many agencies, the funding comes as reimbursement to pay for work already done. For the townships, however, Medora's Robinson said, they'll have to wait on the funding to do much of the work.
"It's really on the state's shoulders at this point," said Reno County Emergency Management director Adam Weishaar. "Locally, we don't have any say in how quickly this process goes."
Some areas in the state, Weisheer said, have filed for assistance under three disaster declarations.
The process typically begins with an application briefing by the state for local officials, followed by the filing of applications, and then assignment by the state of a "delivery manager," Weishaar said.
"We've not been assigned a delivery manager yet, for either event," he said. "We generally tell people, once you go through the process, you're a year out from getting the money. We don't have a good timeline. A year has come and gone."
Meanwhile, repair work continues in some places in the county.
Reno County crews this week were nearing completion of a bridge replacement on McNew Road just north of K-96 highway. Then they'll start tearing out one closed by flooding on Fountain Green Road, east of Worthington Road, said Reno County Road and Bridge Superintendent Don Brittain.
A 72-foot long, two-span structure made of concrete beams set on steel trusses is replacing the destroyed timber bridge on McNew Road.
The steel pilings for the bridge are 80 to 100 feet deep, according to Equipment Operator Kevin Childs, who was working on the scene Thursday.
After the row of parallel nearly-3-foot wide concrete slabs is in place, they'll be welded together at steel plates along the top of each beam, and then the deck bolted to the steel structure below.
There were no county roads damaged this year by the floods, Brittain said, and both bridges are on township roads. Replacing just one bridge, however, was enough to qualify the county — and its townships — for a disaster declaration.
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