Posted 4/05/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
Divide County’s spring road meeting with township supervisors Friday carried a warning the county could be stuck paying for up to $1 million in road projects dating back to the flood of 2011.
About 140 of 179 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) projects still need final reports submitted. The projects included everything from grade raises to complete rebuilds and re-routing of dozens of roads left underwater following a record spring runoff five years ago.
“If the documentation isn’t there, the county, as fiscal agent will have to pay this money back,” said Commission Chairman Gerald Brady.
Brady said only one township, Frederick, has closed out their project so far.
“If you aren’t in Frederick, you’ve got some work to get done,” he added, and the county can ill afford the consequences if it isn’t.
“That’s a million dollars the county didn’t budget for,” Brady said, at a time when state funds related to oil are in jeopardy.
“Now it’s all up in the air,” said Commissioner Doug Graupe.
Divide County States Attorney Seymour Johnson has been enlisted to help townships assemble the FEMA documentation.
“What I would hope is you just give us everything you have and we hunt through it,” Jordan said, to fill in the blanks necessary to close out each project.
Some townships had only a single project but others had as many as 16 they now need to document.
Townships, like the county, are also facing uncertainty about future state funds. Some townships have been notified oil impact grant projects previously approved may not be paid for. But others said it sounds like the money will just be delayed.
Elkhorn Township Supervisor Wade Bjorgen said he was told the money will come eventually.
“You just might not get it this year or next year,” Bjorgen said he was advised.
Commissioners noted the money townships are projected to get this year from the oil and gas tax -- according to a state formula based on road miles and the number of sections -- will be down to about a third of what it once was.
Commissioners also announced a change in their gravel program.
“We feel like we’re losing gravel,” said Graupe.
This year, gravel will be charged by the ton rather than the yard, using the county payloader and scale or by getting prior approval to use a contractor with a scale.
The county’s dust control program this year is also changing.
Previously, the county paid two-thirds of the cost for an 800 foot application in front of farmsteads -- $550. Starting this year, the county will share half the cost -- $400.
Brady said they anticipate there will be less need for dust control this year “just because truck traffic will be down but we know there are still hot spots.”
On a more positive note, Brady said the balance townships owe the county this year for road work is probably the lowest he’s ever seen.
Following the meeting with commissioners, the county township association heard an address from Tom Wheeler, Ray, a member of the state township officers association. He distributed new state handbooks, while acknowledging a township officer’s job has become very complicated.
“I don’t care if you’re 20 years old or you’re 80 years old, this is not your parent’s township anymore. It’s not a simple thing anymore.”
Supervisors in townships dealing with FEMA can attest to that.
It doesn’t help, said Brady, that some of the FEMA representatives may have given erroneous information back when the projects were started.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean anything to them,” said Brady.