May 29, 2024

Disaster declaration for winter storms denied


A request from Governor Kim Reynolds dating back to February asking President Joe Biden for a presidential major disaster declaration was denied recently. The request was due to significant costs the state and its county and local governments saw because of winter storms in the first half of January.

The letter, addressed to Reynolds, said the damages from this event were not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of state and affected local governments.

“Accordingly, we have determined that supplemental federal assistance is not necessary,” it said.

Adair and Guthrie County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeremy Cooper said this news doesn’t mean local governments that are seeking recuperation of costs brought on by these storms won’t see the money for it, but any payments received will be even more delayed.

State leaders are looking into the appeals process now, and have 30 days to appeal, according to the letter.

“The director [of Iowa Homeland Security] informed us that they’re actively working to appeal. That’s where the appeal process is,” Cooper said.

The two winter storms in question brought about the request for a presidential declaration.

Multiple local governments within Adair and Guthrie counties submitted figures to the application. Costs just for Adair County Secondary Roads, in cleaning up from the storm, were in excess of $500,000, however local governments were only able to submit figures for the application from their worst 48-hour period.

Adair County Engineer Nick Kauffman said the total hours worked for his staff of up to 26 people were 2,100 during the storms. That amounts to an average of 81 hours of overtime each. Taking away sick time, it was about 83 hours worked per employee.

“All those communities or counties would only get reimbursed for 48 hours of cost. That impact [for cleaning up] was a weeks-long process to make sure it was done and finalized,” Cooper said. “What [was up for grabs] wasn’t much, but it was at least something. Now, I can promise that they’re not going to get any more — at least not in this fiscal year.”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.