Almost 11 months after the event, Hamilton County governmental agencies are receiving more than $800,000 from FEMA as a result of the snowstorm that affected Central Indiana for five days in January.
“We’ve been working on this for nine months to get the right numbers,” Tom Sivak, Hamilton County Emergency Management executive director, said. “After any disaster, we’ll be stronger because it happened. We’ll know how to track (disaster costs) and when.”
From Jan. 5 through 9, crews worked to clear the streets and agencies tasked with assisting county residents saw their budgets rapidly depleted as a result of the manpower overtime, salt usage and other emergency issues. The amount of snow combined with the extreme cold prompted the Hamilton County Commissioners to declare a state of emergency for the county, closing roads and government offices during that time.
“It was one of our largest Emergency Operation Center activations in our history,” Sivak said. “It was a big event. For us, the biggest thing is everyone came together. … It’s what we do in Hamilton County. We all have one common purpose.”
Although Hamilton County was initially denied inclusion in the state disaster declaration, it was later added as financial costs for public assistance exceeded the threshold established by FEMA. Sivak explained that the county’s threshold is $3.45 multiplied by the 2010 population census – or approximately $960,000. The State of Indiana’s threshold to request disaster relief is $1.45 times its population, or approximately $9 million.
In total, 23 county agencies submitted information for reimbursement from FEMA. Each agency worked independently with a FEMA representative during the span of six to seven months to identify storm-related costs that would qualify for assistance.
“We are lucky to have such great working relationships with all of our partners throughout Hamilton County,” said Sivak. “Without their time and support, reimbursement of federal funds to offset the costs of the storm would not have happened.”
Sivak said more than $1,070,500 in storm-related expenditures were identified as eligible for reimbursement with FEMA paying 75 percent or $800,000 of those costs back to Hamilton County.
Sivak said Hamilton County will retain approximately $115,000 for damages/costs to its emergency management, sheriff’s office, buildings and grounds, highway, parks and airport departments. The remaining $685,000 will be distributed to municipalities and public safety agencies to assist with overtime, product and operations costs during the storm. Sivak did not release the exact amount each municipal agency received.
“We’re able to replace financing that exceeded normal event costs. Everybody is working with tight budgets,” Sivak said.