|07-10-03: An emergency declared Gov. Taft visits Grand
Lake area to assess flood damage; Mercer County property owners may be eligible for aid
|By SEAN RICE
The Daily Standard
Gov. Bob Taft has declared a state of emergency for Mercer County and
the surrounding area and took a flight over the flood-ravaged Grand Lake St. Marys area
early this afternoon to assess damage.
Ohio Emergency Manage-ment Agency Executive Director Dale Shipley and
Taft were to meet with emergency workers and hold a 12:30 p.m. press conference at the
Mercer County Central Services Building in Celina. The news conference ran past The Daily
Standard's press deadline.
The governor's state of emergency declaration frees up state financial
assistance for flood victims. In order for property owners to claim government assistance,
all damage must be reported and documented, county officials said.
A large group of county, village, city, township and state officials
has been meeting daily as a disaster response team in the Central Services Building in
Celina, keeping track of the floodwaters in the county, dispersing information and
organizing emergency supplies.
The county has set up an emergency operations center and issued a phone
number for non-emergency questions and damage reports. The number is 419-586-4347.
Mercer County emergency management Director Karl Kaiser said property
owners can call the emergency operations center number to report damage to their property.
Reporting and documentation of damage will help the government decide what amounts of
assistance are needed.
The Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency (FEMA) and federal Small
Business Administration (SBA) are scheduled to be in the county today to assess the damage
and report back to the governor. Rob Glenn of the Ohio EMA office said the steps toward
acquiring state and federal assistance begin with the FEMA and SBA inspections.
Glenn said Taft can then appeal to the federal government for a disaster
declaration, which would free more funding.
"The governor's mission is to go to the front lines and see how
bad the damage is and meet some of the people affected by the storms that keep
coming," Glenn said this morning.
In addition to what funds may become available, the Mercer County
Department of Job and Family Services has assistance that could be given to local flood
victims through federal Prevention, Retention and Contingency funding. Approved applicants
can receive up to $1,500.
Also the Soil and Water Conserva-tion District may have funds available
to farm owners with problems from overflowing manure lagoons, Kaiser said.
Information on anything related to the emergency and possible
assistance can be directed to the county emergency operations center.
"There's more than just one source of funding, so anyone that has
a dire need, let us know," Kaiser told the county group meeting in the emergency
operations center this morning.
In Montezuma, the fire department has stockpiled drinking water at the
firehouse, due to fears of water well contamination. Bruce Gander with the Mercer County
Health Department said anyone whose well has been submerged should have it disinfected and
checked by the health department.
The American Red Cross has stockpiled more drinking water in Celina
High School, also with food and clean-up kits.
The Red Cross has so far counted 36 homes with major damage in the
county and 143 with minor damage. Also, 22 mobile homes in the county were destroyed, six
have major damage and 65 have minor damage.
An Environmental Protection Agency official at this morning's emergency
meeting said residents need to be aware of restrictions during cleanup, such as bans on
open-burning. Also, construction debris cannot be mixed with regular household trash, and
household hazardous waste, such as stoves and washing machines, can't be mixed with other
types of waste.
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