Coming Into Focus

Yankton County Commissioner Joe Healy makes a point during Tuesday night’s meeting. Among other items, the commission heard an update on disaster relief related to the spring storms.

Based on preliminary estimates, Yankton County has sustained nearly $21 million in public infrastructure damages — about $18 million in Yankton alone — from this spring’s weather disasters, a state official said Tuesday.

Marc Macy, with the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management (OEM), provided an overview of the disaster application process during the Yankton County Commission meeting.

Gov. Kristi Noem requested a presidential disaster declaration for nearly the entire state of South Dakota. The Rushmore State sustained major damage this spring from a bomb cyclone, heavy rains and blizzards.

President Trump approved the disaster declaration request, with a number of counties — including Yankton County — qualifying for both the public damages and also the individual assistance for private property owners.

“Of the 66 counties in South Dakota, 58 counties had public assistance declaration,” Macy said. “Out of the $48 million (in public damages) across the state, Yankton County had about half of it, so it’s good for you that we received the disaster declaration.”

With the approval of the presidential declaration, the next major phase begins, Macy said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will work with state and local officials, as well as individuals, in determining final figures for losses.

“For the individual assistance, you have 60 days after the disaster declaration, which was June 7, to make application, so you have until August 6 to come in,” he said. “We encourage you to go online first and fill out an application, but you can still come to the natural disaster recovery center (in Yankton).”

Macy urged property owners to make an application for their damages and not miss the Aug. 6 deadline. “If anyone has questions, it’s best to go down and talk one-on-one with the FEMA specialists,” he said.

For the public entities, an applicant briefing for the region will be held at 3 p.m. July 17 in Fire Station No. 2 on 23rd Street in Yankton.

“FEMA will have three to six individuals there, along with our Office of Emergency Management staff members who work with these projects,” Macy said. “County commissioners, if you’re available that afternoon, it would be good to stop down (at the briefing).”

With the disaster declaration, the federal government will cover 75 percent of infrastructure replacement costs, with the other 25 percent coming from a state and local match, he said.

Yankton County Emergency Paul Scherschligt emphasized the meeting will focus on public infrastructure and is geared for government officials.

South Dakota OEM and other entities are working with 700 applicants for the public infrastructure assistance, Macy said

“The $48 million wasn’t pulled out of the hat,” he said. “Every damage number has a calculation behind it. Every gravel washout, every culvert that was damaged — it takes a while to come up with these numbers.”

After his presentation, Macy told the Press & Dakotan that a follow-up damage assessment could mean the inclusion of at least some of the eight counties not currently under the public declaration.

In addition, locales such as Turner County, which qualified for public damage coverage but not individual assistance, could see its numbers rise and qualify with further review, Macy said.

“We have had people all over the state assisting with the disaster resource centers, doing audits of the damage assessments … and gearing up for the applicant briefings,” he said.

Some counties and other local governments may find it difficult to come up with their share of the matching funds. Macy couldn’t speak definitively, but he said efforts could be made to find other resources to help with matching funds.

Scherschligt said he was ready to move forward with the recovery process.

“The work has begun,” he said.

In other business:

• By a 4-1 vote, the commissioners approved entering an agreement with Schneider Geospatial for its permitting software. The payment schedule calls for $32,950 in the first year and $6,900 annually for the second, third, fourth and fifth years.

Commissioners Dan Klimisch, Don Kettering, Cheri Loest and Joe Healy voted in favor of the motion while Gary Swenson voted against it.

• The commissioners approved July 5 as a paid day off for county employees. With the July 4 holiday falling on a Thursday, the additional day benefits employees who travel. In addition, the governor has given state employees and offices July 5 as a day for closing state offices. Given that county offices interact heavily with state offices, the county officials cannot do their job most effectively on July 5 with state offices closed.

• By a 3-2 vote, the commission allowed county department to charge $10 for a notary fee for those officials who wanted to charge a fee. The fee would not apply to county-related business, which would remain free of charge. Kettering, Loest and Healy voted in favor while Klimisch and Swenson were opposed.

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