Boone County expects to spend $1.7 million on snow removal

Layers of bureaucracy could delay federal aid up to one year.
Boone County received 20 inches of snow from the storm that hit the Midwest in early February. The snowfall beat Mid-Missouri's previous record by nearly 10 percent.

Due to record and unexpected snowfall in early February, Boone County is tabulating clean up costs in order to start the process of receiving potential federal assistance. In order to receive federal aid, though, Missouri counties have to proceed through several levels of bureaucracy.

Along with about 60 other prospective Missouri counties, Boone County is working with the State Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to potentially receive federal emergency aid.

Office of Emergency Management Director Zim Schwartze said the county plans to use the estimated $1.7 million for snow removal supplies, personnel, damage and other practical costs. But the county could not provide an itemized list of the costs, because the numbers haven’t been finalized.

Schwartze said the current cost estimate is $1.7 million, which includes Columbia and surrounding areas, as well as universities, colleges, school districts and hospitals.

The estimation is highly dependent on the response of federal agents and on whether SEMA will cut costs. What SEMA accepts might be completely different from the local estimation.

“It’s all a moving target,” Schwartze said.

Another factor which will affect estimates is the amount of time it might take to combine estimates and requests from all other counties in Missouri. Tim Diemler, deputy director of State Emergency Management Agency, hopes to have this information consolidated by the end of this week.

“This was a wide area of disaster, so getting all of those statistics takes some time,” Diemler said.

In order to gain a good perspective over the state’s needs, a FEMA representative will come to meet with local officials, Diemler said.

According to the Stafford Act, in order to qualify for federal assistance, the county must first have had a record or near record snowfall.

How much each county would hypothetically receive is proportionate to the level of record snowfall they had during the blizzard, Schwartze said.

Boone County was 10 percent over past record snowfall level, while some counties reached 50 percent over their past records.

The Stafford Act also states the county might only receive funding for two day’s worth of the disaster.

Schwartze said the two-day period of time can be difficult. The aspects of clean up can be on completely different time frames, so the points where FEMA and local estimates meet can often be varying.

A third requirement to qualify for federal aid is for the state to have exceeded its per capita threshold of state funds during the disaster.

The county’s Public Assistance request must go through a lengthy process. After all of the data is collected within the counties, and within 30 days of the disaster, the governor must declare a state of emergency to FEMA which Gov. Jay Nixon did Jan. 31.

The declaration of emergency covers 75 percent of costs through federal aid, and the remaining 25 percent would be locally funded.

Schwartze said the federal aid process can take on average about 6 months to go into effect after the declaration. She believes the process should take up much of 2011.

“We're not going to let anything detrimentally happen over money,” Diemler said. “We will do what we have to do to protect the citizens.”

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