TABOR — Like his fellow Tabor residents, Ken Sedlacek has dealt with water, water everywhere during the past nine months.
The Bon Homme County community of 400 residents has endured a wet fall and a snowy winter that created saturated soil. A March 13 bomb cyclone inundated the town, particularly low-lying areas. The flooding has been followed by continued heavy rainfall during spring and early summer.
"I’ve had flood damage to my basement three times," Sedlacek told the Press & Dakotan.
Sedlacek carries homeowner’s insurance, but he believes he has reached the limit of his coverage or has sustained damage doesn’t fall under his policy.
The situation led him Tuesday to visit the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in the Tabor Fire Hall. The center consists of representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) office in Tyndall.
"I’m not applying for anything today, but I’m seeing what’s available for myself and others," Sedlacek said.
The Tabor center will remain open yet today (Wednesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For those who miss the Tabor center, they can use the next Discovery Recovery Center July 8-11 at the Charles Mix County 4-H Building in Lake Andes.
In addition, the Disaster Recovery Center in Yankton remains open for applications and inquiries. The center is located at the Yankton County emergency management office at 807 Capital Street.
"You don’t have to be from that county in order to use the DRC," said Elizabeth DiPaolo with FEMA. "You can go to any DRC, call our help line or go online at disaster.gov."
DiPaolo, based in Denver, works for FEMA’s Region VIII which partners with the emergency management agencies of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming dealing with disasters. Region VIII’s most common challenges are flooding, severe storms, tornadoes and winter storms.
In Tabor, DiPaolo was serving as the DRC manager. "There are seven of us (workers) here each day," she said, explaining the workers from multiple agencies.
These centers are handling individual assistance (IA), which covers private property. A separate process exists for public assistance (PA), which covers infrastructure and other public property.
The IA applicants must provide a series of information or documents, DiPaolo said. The data includes Social Security number, current contact information, address of the damaged property, brief description of the disaster-related damage and losses and insurance information.
In addition, an applicant must provide the bank account and routing number if desiring to receive direct deposit payments. Otherwise, the applicant will receive any disaster payments by check.
"Most of (the process) is verbal, then an inspector goes out for documentation," DiPaolo said.
Many people use the DRC for face-to-face service, to produce additional documents or for other reasons, she said. The visitors may bring titles or proof of ownership.
"We guide them through the process," she said.
During the first two days in Tabor, the DRC had seen nearly two dozen visitors, DiPaolo said.
"We’re surprisingly busy for a small community," she said. "We’re pleased to see it and believe it’s been fairly successful."
Most claims were for basement flooding and housing repairs, DiPaolo said. However, the DRC can also assist displaced homeowners and renters. The applications can range from home repairs to rental assistance.
"Here, the problems have mostly started with the March 13 bomb cyclone," she said.
Bon Homme County emergency manager Eric Elsberry visited the Tabor DRC on Tuesday afternoon. He has worked with FEMA officials in the past.
Bon Homme County has qualified for both public and individual assistance under the presidential disaster declaration, Elsberry said. However, he noted the two forms of disaster aid cover different aspects and processes.
The public assistance covers things such as government infrastructure, Elsberry said. Public entities seeking disaster relief are required to send a representative to a July 17 meeting in Yankton. The 3 p.m. meeting will be held at Fire Station No. 2 on 23rd Street.
"I plan to attend for Bon Homme County, and I’ve been contacted by the five towns in our county about the July 17 meeting in Yankton," Elsberry said, referring to Avon, Tyndall, Tabor, Springfield and Scotland.
The preliminary disaster figure for public infrastructure in Bon Homme County stands at $1.7 million, Elsberry said. The final figure could change, he added.
"For Bon Homme County, the biggest damages appear to be the gravel roads," he said. ‘(Highway Superintendent) Dennis Hovorka has been working on the figures."
As for individual assistance, the maximum grant stands at $34,900, DiPaolo said. An applicant will receive a letter on the determination of an inspector’s findings. A party denied individual assistance can appeal the decision.
The initial rejection may be based on factors such as insufficient damage or the need for more information, she said. The denial is not necessarily the last word, she added.
"It never hurts to apply," she said. "You never know what you’re eligible for."
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