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County may qualify for flood-related help
Assistance could extend to folks with flooded basements
new_deh_barton county commission tornado pic
Pictured is a tornado that hovered near Great Bend last year. The statewide tornado drill is set for Tuesday morning.

County wants to hear about flood, water damage

To contact Emergency Management Director Amy Miller about storm-related damages or basement damages from the increased water table, call 620-793-1919 or email Miller wants to hear whatever sort of damages residents have experienced.

If no one answers, just leave a message and a call-back number, but that is optional. 

After more rain fell Saturday night and dark clouds threatened yet another storm Monday morning, the Barton County Commission signed a Declaration of a State of Local Disaster Emergency based on damages experienced as a result of the flooding, high winds and excessive rainfall during the period of April 28 through May 9.

There were damages to township roads and structures from an EF-O tornado and flooding countywide that may qualify for assistance, Emergency Management Director Amy Miller said. In addition, there may be relief for residents whose basements flooded due to the rising ground water table.

“This is one of those instances where I’m coming before you to a disaster declaration after the fact,” she said. “We seem to be right on the edge of having enough public assistance damages in order to be declared a disaster.”

The threshold is in the neighborhood of $104,800 for Barton County. “So the state is recommending we go ahead and declare a disaster for this time period.”

Even if the cost of the damage doesn’t meet the target for federal disaster declaration locally, it will factor in to the state total to help other counties and the state meet required levels, Miller said. “We can help ourselves or we can help other people.”

Other types of relief

Also as part of this declaration, she said there have been a lot of high-water issues, not necessarily from the flood waters, but from the increased water table. 

Now, she is urging residents who have experienced water in their basements to call her. For Barton County, it takes 25 requests to qualify for individual assistance, which shouldn’t be a problem according to what she’s heard.

“I’m not saying that is going to bring any grant money into the county to help them,” she said. “It may only be only be in the form of low-interest loans.”

She is also trying to gather information on how to deal with mold and other water-related problems in homes. She has heard from a number of volunteer agencies that want to help with cleanup, but many of the folks impacted still have standing water in their homes to deal with.

“I’m just trying to get an idea of how many people we have out there who have issues, the type of issues they have and if there is anything we can do to help them,” she said. Those with damages don’t even have to have a damage estimate yet; Miller just wants to hear from them.

She just wants the type of damage they experienced (actual flood water or raised water table). Those who contact her can leave a number for a call-back, ask for additional help or just leave their information.

As people call, Miller said she can start to piece together a map. “Great Bend may not be the only place having these issues. We may have people in the Ellinwood, Hoisington and Claflin areas who are having problems as well.”

“I’m glad that we can do something,” Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. “I know there are people out there whose basements are floating, we can at least show that we are trying to put something together.”

Adding to the problem is that many of these people don’t have flood insurance, Schartz said. “They are out kind of hanging on their own.”

Out on the roads

“It’s a big job,” Miller said of the Road and Bridge Department’s efforts. The flooding has kept crews busy clearing debris-choked culverts and box bridges so water can flow.

“People have to be mindful that Road and Bridge has been working diligently,” Miller said. All the hours and wear and tear on county equipment is also tracked and will be included in the cost estimate for the storms.

Barton County Communications also tracks 911 calls for other flood-related incidents from the Sheriff’s Office and other departments, Miller said.

County Memorial Day closings announced

Barton County business offices will be closed on Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. The Health Department, the Records Division of the Sheriff’s Office and the County Landfill will also be closed that day. Emergency services will be in normal operation.

And, since the County Commission usually meets on Monday mornings, its next meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Monday, June 3, at the courthouse, 1400 Main, Great Bend.

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance:

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Signed a Declaration of a State of Local Disaster Emergency for Barton County due to recent stormy weather.

Barton County has experienced damages as a result of the flooding, high winds and excessive rainfall during the period of April 28 through May 9, Barton County Emergency Management Director Amy Miller said. In an effort to review the damages in the county with state and local officials, the County Commission was asked to sign the disaster declaration.

• Approved a change order for the 100-year-old courthouse maintenance project to repaint the windows at a cost of $16,829. 

• Approved electrical work at the Ellinwood sandpit. The Road and Bridge Department constructed a building at the Ellinwood sandpit to house equipment and materials in early 2019. Electric service and outlets were installed to the building to power lights and engine heaters for the equipment.

Triple T Electric of Ellinwood did the work at a cost of $5,016.28.