After the recent flooding and emergency declarations made by Harvey County and several surrounding counties, the question of financial aid naturally came up at last week's Harvey County Commission meeting. This week, the county got closer to answers, hearing an update from Emergency Management Director Gary Denny on Monday.
The Kansas Department of Emergency Management sent representatives to meet with Denny and a number of applicants on Monday to assess the damage incurred across Harvey County.
Currently, Denny said the county has 16 applicants for KDEM assistance, including two county departments, one school district, one watershed, two cities and 10 townships. The threshold for the county to receive assistance is $131,000, while current damage estimates are in excess of $650,000.
"Speaking with the state, Harvey County is one of those that was impacted the greatest in this past event," Denny said.
Butler County was also hit hard, Denny reported, as his peer there had noted damage estimates of $1.1 million in the neighboring county.
With so many counties to assess and the state's application deadline coming up on Friday, Denny noted the plan with KDEM was to select one or two applicants having suffered the greatest damage and touring those areas so that the county would hopefully, quickly, meet its threshold.
One of the areas hit hardest was Harvey County West Park, as Parks Director Kass Miller updated the commission on some of the damage on Monday — including major washout in several areas, including some near public amenities, such as picnic tables.
"By the National Weather Service and their gauges, this was not a major flood. At the park, this is probably the second or third highest that it's been in several years," said County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber. "So, we're seeing major damage to the river bank from the event."
"In all my years living in this county and taking river readings ... this is the fastest I've seen the water move," said commission chairman Chip Westfall.
Swartzendruber said it would take a "considerable amount" of funding to fix all the areas highlighted by Miller. While rocking the river banks and putting up snow fencing, which Miller noted has already been done in some areas, were among suggested fixes, it was noted the department will wait to find out if the event is FEMA-eligible before taking further action.
Denny noted both the county and the state of Kansas are expected to meet the necessary thresholds for FEMA assistance, but Harvey County also isn't out of the woods just yet as more heavy rain is predicted this week.
"We're looking towards the future and the possible event that we have coming up this week," Denny said. "We'll be ramping up in anticipation of what may happen with that."
In other business, the county commission:
• Received a save the date for the annual Harvey County Economic Development Council meeting coming up on June 18.
• Learned of efforts being taken on by the treasurer's office to handle crowd control at the driver's license office over the busier summer hours.
• Was informed that Harvey County 911 is amending its flood response plan after some issues were brought to light with the recent incident.
• Heard about plans of the Republican Party to convene at 7 p.m. May 30 at the community room of the Harvey County Courthouse to discuss replacement of the Register of Deeds.
• Advised administration to prepare KCAMP flood insurance paperwork looking into coverage of three buildings at Harvey County West Park, with Westfall to sign off at a later date.
• Toured the law enforcement center, which is under renovation — including the joint area shared between the Harvey County Sheriff's Office and Newton Police Department for evidence storage, as well as new office space being created for the drug task force.