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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • County seeks federal disaster declaration after snowstorms

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  • Although the snow from last month's double blizzard has long since melted away, Harvey County Emergency Management coordinator Lon Buller continues to deal with the aftermath of the storms.He's researching whether the county will be able to receive federal reimbursement for damage expenses, but that could depend on whether both snowstorms will be counted a single, qualifying event. If they are, Buller thinks the county could meet the requirements for federal aid, but if not, the county might fall short."This is a convoluted situation," he said.The first storm, which hit Feb. 20 to 23, brought about a foot of snow to Harvey County and was classified as a record or near-record storm, Buller said. The second storm the following week brought about eight inches and was not a record event, a fact that could impact whether there is a federal declaration.The threshold the county has to meet is about $119,660 worth of damages. This figure is based on 2010 census numbers, with $3.45 allotted per person. So far, Buller has calculated about $191,000 in damages, but that number is for both snowstorms.According to Lunda Asmani, Newton's assistant city manager for budget and finance, the city of Newton alone reported about $117,000 in damages, with more than $6 million in damages statewide."Damages" the county is allowed to report include fuel costs, staff overtime expenses and repairs to equipment. Townships also may have experienced loss of materials from sanded roads.If the Kansas Department of Transportation is allowed to add their expenses for time spent working in Harvey County, Buller thinks that could boost county expenses for the first snowstorm over the threshold.The next step in the process will be a preliminary damage assessment to determine what reports can be counted toward the total damage tally. If the county's application is accepted, FEMA will provide some reimbursement for the expenses."You're not going to get rich," Buller said. "They just want to get you back on your feet."Overall, Buller is impressed by how county staff responded to the storm and how they worked to keep citizens safe, despite the adverse weather conditions."It takes time to get around and grade the roads or clear the streets," he said. "I think that considering everything, they did a really good job." 
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