As clean up from last month's flooding continues, Arlington residents are being reminded that volunteers from the Washington County Long-Term Recovery Team (WCLTRT) are ready to help.
That reminder was relayed by the team's president, Phil Green, during a meeting of the Arlington Village Board of Trustees on Monday.
Green, who is the assistant city administrator for the City of Blair, is one of the group's volunteers. The WCLTRT was formed following the Missouri River flooding in 2011.
Green shared a handout with board members that outlined three primary purposes — to assist with damage assessments, to help people with outstanding needs they have post-insurance, post-Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other loans they might be able to get through the Small Business Administration and to serve as advocates as residents go through the FEMA process and other recovery processes.
"It's bad enough they had to go through the disaster, but now they are faced with all this paperwork, all these different governmental groups and different volunteer groups available," he said. "If they desire, they can have a case manager that would assist them individually."
Green encouraged board members to share the information with residents who may need assistance.
"We need to let them know we exist, but we need them to come to us," Green said. "We are not necessarily going to always be able to knock on their door, but if they come to use, call us, or reach out via our website, we'd like to come alongside them and give them whatever assistance, guidance and direction we can."
The WCLTRT is made up of volunteers. The team is a nonprofit organization and has 501(C)3 status and accepts donations, Green said.
Board Chairman Paul Krause thanked Green for helping organize volunteers to help with the damage assessments.
"We were able to knock out a bunch and (board member) Travis (Kraemer) and I were happy to have some help that day," Krause said.
Resident requests more dumpsters
Resident Betty Johnson requested the village continue to provide dumpsters to assist homeowners who are still cleaning up.
Johnson said the house she lives in and the storage unit she rents were both hit by floodwaters and noted that she and others still have items to dispose of and will for quite some time.
Krause said the village spent about $4,000 on dumpsters in March and will likely receive a bill for ones used this month. Streets and Parks Commissioner Jon Rosenthal said about 16 dumpster loads have been filled so far.
Johnson said she and others weren't able to do clean up early because of mud.
"I think there is a big, big need for it, unless you want garbage all over dumped in inappropriate places," she said. "I don't want to see people using (village) dumpsters across the street, but it might happen if we can't find a place."
While he didn't object to having more dumpsters, Rosenthal said village employees aren't going to have time to pick up people's garbage every day, as they have been doing the past month.
"If they can get it into the dumpsters, that's great," he said. "I know it's a hardship for everyone, I get that, but we also have other things we need to be doing as well."
Johnson, however, suggested that it would be a "real hardship" for some residents to have to pick up debris, piece by piece. She said one homeowner has a debris pile as big as the Community Room.
"So, what you are trying to say is that we should pick up everything piece-by-piece," Rosenthal asked.
"No, you guys have big ol' tractors and whatever," Johnson said.
Krause suggested that the village try and schedule another day when volunteers can come in, and suggested that the village work to schedule another volunteer clean-up day.
"We can't just having these guys cleaning up flood debris for two months," he said. "It's been a month since the flood and they have been cleaning for about three weeks."
"So have we," Johnson said.
"We have to keep the business of the city going, that's the most important priority," Krause said. "Unfortunately, we can't just clean up everybody's trash during the week, but I can see if we can get another volunteer day or two to where we have volunteers help on a Saturday and have more dumpsters. I think that's a reasonable thing."
Board vice chair Mark Sundberg believes there has to come a point where the village has done what it could.
"Unless we can recoup those costs, I think we also have to be mindful of our budget," Sundberg said.
Green said the cost of the dumpsters is a reimbursable expense as part of the FEMA claims for public assistance. He said FEMA would reimburse 75 percent of the cost and the other 25 percent would be a state-local responsibility.
"NEMA should cover half of that," Green said. "So, the village is looking at about 12.5 percent.
But, Green said the local match could be paid for through volunteer hours, therefore no out of pocket dollars would be needed.
Reimbursement, however, takes time.
"It could take several years," Green said.
Sundberg said that could be a problem for the village's budget.
Green said the WCLTRT can help find volunteers for a clean-up day. In the meantime, Krause said the city will work on bringing additional dumpsters and placing them by Arlington Estates and the former water treatment property on Sixth Street.
Johnson said she's hoping dumpsters will be available for awhile.
"Maybe one weekend a month for two months," she said.
Damage assessment update
Krause reported that 25 assessments have been completed in homes around the village.
The village was responsible for doing the assessments as part of an ordinance in which they entered into an agreement with FEMA in 1989 to regulate the village's floodplains.
Under the ordinance, the village chair was designated as the floodplain administrator.
"Part of the floodplain manager's job is to assess damage to homes in the floodplain or the floodway and determine whether those damages were over 50 percent," Krause said. "If they were, then the property owner is required to conform to all current building codes, which would mean raising the first floor elevation, including a basement, to one foot above the floodplain."
Krause said village officials did assessments on 25 properties and of those, 14 had more than 50 percent damage.
Krause said the process has been tough.
"This isn't something we wanted to do," he said. "We've lost a lot of people because of this flood and it looks like a lot of people will not be able to move back into their places, but if we don't do this and follow the rules set by this ordinance, then we are in danger of losing FEMA funds and the participation available for people to participate in flood insurance."
There's another situation involving some of the homes that the board will have to consider, as well.
"Most of the houses that failed were in a unique situation of being in an industrial zone, to where building a new house we wouldn't normally allow," he said.
Homeowners who disagree with their assessments will have a chance to appeal the decision to the village's board of adjustments. Krause said a special meeting of the board can be set up.
"What you are going to need are contractor's estimates that dispute the estimate we made," he said. "If you can get those or a property valuation that is higher than the valuation we were told — we went off the assessor's valuation plus 10 percent to determine the fair market value — you can request a hearing."