Sioux Falls Dips Into Reserves for Storm Cleanup

June 22, 2013

The Sioux Falls City Council is taking $8 million from the South Dakota city’s reserve fund to cover most of the cost of cleaning up from a three-day snow and ice storm in April, while officials debate whether to accept federal aid.

Reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency could replace much of the money taken from the city’s reserve fund, which has about $40 million. However, some city officials believe other disaster-stricken areas of the country, such as tornado-devastated Moore, Okla., could use the money more.

“There’s a concern among some people that what happened on April 9, which was terrible for Sioux Falls, but most certainly wasn’t a disaster as people used to think of disasters, because this boiled down to mostly collecting tree branches,” Councilman Kermit Staggers said.

The storm that hit South Dakota’s largest city on April 9 downed trees, branches and power lines. About 115,000 people in the region lost power for a time. President Barack Obama in May approved a disaster declaration for Douglas, Hutchinson, Lincoln, McCook, Minnehaha, Shannon and Turner counties, as well as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, opening the door for federal assistance.

City Finance Director Tracy Turbak said that if Sioux Falls turns down the FEMA money, it could put itself in a vulnerable situation if a major disaster happened.

“Who knows what’s around the corner?” Turbak said.

FEMA funding covers 75 percent of eligible costs such as debris removal, emergency protective measures and repairs of damage to roads, bridges and other public infrastructure, said Regan Smith, the city’s emergency manager. The state covers 10 percent and the city the remaining 15 percent.

If the city accepts FEMA money it probably will not receive it until later in the year or early next year, according to the Argus Leader newspaper.

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