Delta County declares local emergency

ESCANABA – Delta County has officially declared a “local state of emergency” due to the effects of this year’s harsh winter.

The Delta County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the declaration, with Commissioner Dave Moyle absent from Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We now actually have data that we can submit and enter in our damage assessment portion,” said Delta County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Berbohm addressing the board during the meeting. “So far within the Upper Peninsula, you have six counties that have declared a local emergency. A local emergency is recognizing that there’s sufficient damage and we all realize its financial impact to Escanaba, Gladstone, Garden, Nahma and Ford River.”

According to Berbohm, with the data collected, the county ultimately has three options moving forward: continue to collect data; declare a local emergency, meaning the county recognizes there is a situation which is being handled at a local level and stresses its significant financial impact; or declare a local emergency and request a governor’s declaration, which Marquette County tried to do, but was denied.

Berbohm said as it stands, the financial impact of the winter across the U.P. has been more than $5 million.

In Delta County, the total estimated dollar loss from issues with pipe freeze ups is more than $241,000. However this number does not reflect the impact of recent and upcoming concerns, including the propane shortage, pot holes, and flooding.

At a past board meeting, Berbohm indicated damage must reach $13.7 million in damages for Michigan to declare a “state of emergency.”

Both he and Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole testified on the impact of winter on municipal budgets on behalf of Delta County during a state Senate hearing last week.

“Whether or not there’s an appropriation bill, I don’t know,” said Berbohm.

By Delta County declaring a “local state of emergency,” Board Chairman Tom Elegeert will now sign paper work noting the declaration and it will be documented to report to the state.

Elegeert believes it is time for Delta County to follow suit in what six of 15 other U.P. counties have already done by declaring a local emergency.

“I’ve asked Bob to explain it because I’m looking for direction from this board. I think it’s time that we should declare a local emergency…We’ve got enough damage here to begin the process I think,” he said.

Commissioner Ann Jousma Miller agreed.

“I think we’ve just begun to see some of the impact from this winter because when the frost starts coming out of the ground, then we’re really going to see the impact…” she said. “I think that we need to make that declaration for Delta County and at least be in preparation for moving forward.”

In other business, the board:

– approved an independent contract agreement with Berbohm for providing the county’s emergency management services for this year, through Dec. 31, 2014. Berbohm’s wages will remain at $52,900 again this year, per the contract.

– approved renewing an independent contract agreement with Schoolcraft County for Berbohm to provide them with emergency management services this year through Dec. 31, 2014. Berbohm will continue to be paid $10,000 over the year for his services, which will be paid on a monthly basis, according to the contract.

– approved adopting a resolution opposing House Bill 5097, Senate Bill 850, and any similar bills. These bills would exempt police and fire unions from the provisions in the Public Employer Relations Act that prohibit the awarding of retroactive pay, the passing along of benefit cost increases, and the cessation of step pay increases when labor contracts expire before another contract has been agreed upon, by a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Dave Rivard in opposition.

– approved out-of-county travel to the Upper Peninsula Association of County Commissioners’ Spring Conference on May 8-9 at the Island Resort & Casino in Harris.