Houghton waits for FEMA details

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette A damaged section of roadway is seen Wednesday on Bridge Street. A temporary patch will be put on Bridge next month, with a permanent fix coming before winter.

HOUGHTON — With last week’s approval of federal disaster funding for Houghton County for June 17 flooding damage, the city is awaiting the arrival of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) team.

The city has received emails with forms and spreadsheets to fill out in advance of FEMA’s arrival, City Manager Eric Waara said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Some of the documentation will include recording the emergency work already done in FEMA’s format to be eligible for reimbursement.

“We haven’t been told a day yet, when they’re going to actually be here,” he said. “They’ll be here for a while, so when they get here, it’ll be really busy. We’re going to try to get as much done ahead of time.”

The city could be eligible for as much as $10 million in FEMA money, Waara said after the meeting. The city’s estimates could be revised after FEMA arrives.

Emergency work conducted after the flood is 100 percent reimbursable. The city will still need to find matching funds for permanent repair work, which is only 75 percent.

“We’re scoring that with our representatives from the state as to ways to help offset that,” he said.

Means such as Section 19 funds, or infrastructure bank loans might be used, Waara said.

“I know Houghton County’s taking one of those out right now, just to keep the cash flow going,” he said. “We’re getting close to possibly needing one of those, too.”

Most of the city’s major streets are being taken care of through Federal Highway Administration (FHA) funding. Waara said priorities for FEMA funding will include local streets, as well as work that still needs to be done in areas such as the Kestner Waterfront Park and the Nara Nature Park.

“The intent of the program is to get you back to where you were,” he said. “We’re going to work through the process to hopefully get everything back to the way it was, and then hopefully someday improve from there.”

Bacco Construction paved Agate Street and Sharon Avenue last week. The city requested FHA money for Bridge Street, as well as the upper and lower part of Dodge Street and West Sharon Avenue. Those projects, which would normally be subject to a lengthy process, were submitted for an accelerated program.

“MDOT’s going to be doing Montezuma (Avenue) at Dodge, so we want to be able to get the other two ends about the same time,” Waara said.

The upper part of Dodge Street is scheduled to be paved Thursday. That contractor will then work on a number of smaller patches where several inches of asphalt will be placed over currently graveled areas.

On Bridge Street, the hope is to get a job out to bid later this month and get a permanent fix before winter, Waara said. A temporary patch will be in place before school starts.

“Then in late September or early October, we’re going to actually take the blacktop out, regrade everything and fix the sidewalks,” Waara said.

After the meeting, Waara said Montezuma Avenue probably won’t reopen to two lanes until sometime in September. MDOT will bid out the repair job next week. It will then go through an award process and contract process.

The city also received information from the Department of Environmental Quality regarding flood insurance. Waara said he wanted to do more research on the program before bringing any resolutions to the council.

“Being part of the program does tie the city to certain things within drainage districts and zoning,” he said.