The Herald Bulletin

April 27, 2013

Elwood counts on federal assistance

City officials still documenting damage from recent flooding

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. — Most local governments don’t have funds set aside to pay the bills when a natural disaster strikes.

Elwood is a prime example.

Torrential spring rains that swept through Central Indiana last week inundated about three square miles of the northern Madison County city last week. City officials are still assessing damage, but recovery will likely cost millions.

“There is no money appropriated directly for this event,” said Madison County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Ecker, who spent most of last working with Elwood officials.

“We have a healthy cash-on-hand reserve overall, and I believe we’re in a position to weather what comes our way,” said Mayor Ron Arnold on Friday.

The city isn’t all that different from business and homeowners in attempting to catalog and calculate the cost of the flood.

A new police cruiser was destroyed;  repairs will be required at Callaway Park and its Little League and softball fields; the fence around the city’s skate park must be replaced; and the newly-renovated Bayh Center will need a new floor — again.

In addition, a shed housing city mowers, generators and other equipment was swamped, and city employee overtime bills are mounting, Arnold said.

Like individual homeowners, Arnold is discovering just what will be covered by insurance and what won’t be covered.

Insurance would cover the cost if a sewer line had backed up and damaged city equipment, for instance, but not the same damage caused by last week’s storms because Elwood didn’t have coverage for that.

But that’s where Ecker’s expertise and assistance from Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security can come into play.

By carefully documenting all expenses caused by the flood, Elwood will be in a good position to recover some of its costs through grants and reimbursements. Additional money could become available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency if President Obama approves a federal disaster declaration for Indiana.

“On a major event we look for a declaration from the president, which brings in money to the state to provide grant money for us,” Ecker said. “This is a process we’ve been through many times.”

While the process is long and drawn out, he added, “in the end it’s worth it to the county.”

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.