Federal officials discuss ice storm recovery

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By John Friedlein

By JOHN FRIEDLEIN jfriedlein@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, on Wednesday said he is pushing for President Obama to increase his financial commitment to local governments for ice storm expenses.

Guthrie and Kim Kadesch, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s coordinating officer for the ice storm, spoke during a meeting of Lincoln Trail Area Development District officials.

For now, the state plans to pay 12 percent — and each county or city must come up with 13 percent — of expenses such as debris removal.

Local governments still are assessing damages from last month’s storm and will present the findings to FEMA so the agency can determine exactly what assistance it will provide.

Guthrie said he would like to waive the match required of local governments and the state.

Gov. Steve Beshear has asked for the same thing for the first seven days of the storm, according to FEMA.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has communicated storm-related needs to the president, could help with a waiver.

“The Speaker has his ear,” Guthrie said.

Some communities will find paying for debris pickup difficult, he said. “Once the bills come due from these contractors for removing debris, we need to have the federal money available. That’s going to be my focus over the next few days.”

Guthrie said he still is pursuing ways to bring assistance to individuals.

However, Kadesch said conditions — such as widespread home destruction — for this type of help usually aren’t met in an ice storm.

“From what we’ve seen so far, it’s not likely that counties are going to qualify for that,” he said.

Generally, those needs are best met by volunteer agencies or state and local governments, he said.

As for waiving the 12 and 13 percent government matches, “the threshold is pretty high for that,” Kadesch said.

Elizabethtown Finance Director Steve Park said cities and counties would have to pay 25 percent of employee overtime costs incurred because of the ice storm.

FEMA specialists will work with local officials who are asking for aid.

“Apply for what you think you’re eligible for, and then we will sort it out,” Kadesch told officials from throughout the area during Wednesday’s meeting.

Once the financial cost of the storm is known, Kentucky will be eligible for 20 percent of the damage total. This money will be used to help prepare the state for natural disasters.

State Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, at Wednesday’s meeting asked FEMA to consider National Guard members who are recovering from injuries from helping with recovery.

Also, electric companies such as Nolin RECC are expected to receive funds. There were widespread power outages and much damage to equipment.

Besides paying for the recovery, FEMA has delivered communications equipment, food, water and emergency generators.

FEMA on Wednesday was still running emergency power at two locations. Generators went to places such as nursing homes.

John Friedlein can be reached at 505-1746.