Canton Repository

February 2, 2005

Taft asks for federal disaster aid due to storms

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Gov. Bob Taft on Tuesday requested that President Bush declare a federal disaster in 60 counties damaged by snow, ice and flooding.

If Bush issues the declaration, it would clear the way for federal aid to local and state governments, individuals and businesses that sustained losses. Federal officials could not provide an estimate on when the president may act on the request.

Storms and flooding last month caused an estimated $268.5 million in damages, according to an assessment by the state and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Under the current request, 42 of the counties, including Stark, Tuscarawas, Carroll, Wayne, Holmes, Columbiana, Harrison and Guernsey, would only be eligible for public assistance relief.

The aid provides reimbursement for debris removal, emergency workers’ overtime, and the repair of roads, bridges, water-treatment facilities, rural electric cooperatives and other local or state government infrastructure.

Damage to public infrastructure totaled $3.05 million in Stark, $2.66 million in Tuscarawas and $1.12 million in Carroll, according to the assessment.

Under the request, 16 counties, including Coshocton, Muskingum and Belmont, would qualify for individual assistance — federal grants for individual property damage — as well as public infrastructure relief.

Two counties, Clark and Warren, would only be eligible for individual assistance under the request.

Stark and Tuscarawas are among several counties where individual damage assessments have not been completed, said Rob Glenn, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

If further assessments show that the counties meet a federal threshold for damage to private property, the state could ask the federal government for individual assistance grants in those counties.

Lingering flooding and debris removal in some counties, including Tuscarawas, have interfered with damage assessments.

According to the state assessment, damage to public infrastructure totaled $436,800 in Wayne County, $448,150 in Holmes, $1.02 million in Coshocton, $3.05 million in Muskingum, $3.17 million in Guernsey and $225,000 in Harrison County.

The state said the storm and flooding damage to local governments was $67.6 million, while costs to rural electric cooperatives was $59.9 million. Another 68 businesses had major damage and 23 homes will have to be replaced.