Iowa Town Learns Tornadoes Destroy Quickly But Property Recovery Takes Time

By Mike Donahey | January 23, 2020

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa— It took 23 minutes for the July 2018 tornado to rip a path through Marshalltown resulting in millions of dollars in property damage.

Like many homes and private businesses, city and county properties were not spared from the destruction. Most notable were city hall, the venerable Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the iconic Marshall County Courthouse.

At city hall Marshalltown City Administrator Jessica Kinser, City Finance Director Diana Steiner and team continue to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Their job is to compile documentation of eligible expenses and apply to get the maximum amount reimbursed.

The federal government declared Marshalltown eligible for disaster relief in September 2018, nearly two months after the tornado struck. To date, the city has identified $4,159,545.32 in expenses and has been reimbursed $66,183.82, according to the Times-Republican.

The federal government is reimbursing the city of Marshalltown 75 percent, or 75 cents on the dollar for approved expenditures. The state of Iowa is reimbursing the city 10 percent, or 10 cents on the dollar for approved expenditures. Consequently, with the federal government and state paying 85 percent of eligible expenses or 85 cents on the dollar the city must absorb the remaining 15 cents on the dollar.

“We are working to close out all of the small projects — under $125,000 — which has to be done in order to receive FEMA funds and the state 10 percent allotment as well,” Kinser said.

She said large project budget requests have been put on hold while she, city staff, and department heads work on the city’s 2020-21 budget — a major undertaking.

Marshalltown City Council member Bill Martin praised Kinser, Steiner and other staff for working aggressively with FEMA and state officials. Martin and other councilors made it clear it is critical the city gets reimbursed for every cent it deserves. “I know the reimbursement process is slow, but we as a council have an obligation to our residents to closely monitor this issue,” he said.

In addition to FEMA reimbursement, the city is working to close out insurance claims.”We are still awaiting funds from insurance, but mostly for the Coliseum,” Kinser said.

“We would be at $1.1 million to be paid on it which is tied directly to the construction project moving forward. On all of our other properties, it is less than $10,000.”

Photo: Vehicles are covered in rubble from a tornado damaged building, Friday, July 20, 2018, in Marshalltown, Iowa. Several buildings were damaged Thursday evening by a tornado in the main business district in town including the historic courthouse. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

About Mike Donahey

Donahey is a reporter for Times-Republican newspaper in Marshalltown, Iowa.

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