Board requests governor declare state of emergency

ESCANABA – Delta County has submitted a request for Gov. Rick Snyder to declare a “state of emergency” in the county due to the impact of a severe cold winter that has caused many frozen water pipes.

Members of the Delta County Board of Commissioners approved submitting the request during a special board meeting Thursday morning. Commissioners Dave Moyle and Dave Rivard were absent from the meeting.

The action was taken following an update by Delta County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Berbohm on the board’s decision to declare a “local state of emergency” earlier this month.

Berbohm said the damage done from this winter continues to be felt, as on Wednesday, 12 water spouts were observed coming from the Escanaba Water Treatment Plant. The city is working on a damage assessment for this issue.

“We don’t know what the cost of the fix is,” he said. “What’s going to have to happen is we’re going to have to drain all the water and basically go in and do the full assessment which will begin on Friday and perhaps by Tuesday we’ll have a complete idea of what’s going to happen.”

Added Berbohm, “We now are at the point where there is, I believe, a hazard to the community. The city does have a back-up plan, but in accumulation of everything we’re in excess of $300,000 in damage.”

Among the needs the county will request are crews and contractors to aid in repair to leaks at the water treatment plant, traffic control devices and signage for repair sites, aid in repairing broken water mains and services, and road restoration at job sites.

To date, Escanaba has unthawed 2,635 feet of storm drains, said Berbohm. Ten water mains have also been broken and 12 fire hydrants are out of commission.

“Due to the length and duration of this incident, which is expected to continue for another six to eight weeks, all local jurisdictions are close to or have already exhausted their resources within their proprietary water funds,” said Berbohm. “At this point, equipment and manpower are also being re-evaluated within the city.”

Berbohm said once the request for a governor’s declaration is submitted, the state will review it and the county will likely receive a documentation packet of questions.

If approved, a governor’s declaration would provide resources to the county.

“Then the next step is a presidential declaration and if the governor elects to go that route and we receive a presidential declaration, that activates the FEMA umbrella,” he said. “That’s where there may be financial assistance and low interest loans.”

Commissioner Ann Jousma Miller commented that in addition to issues felt within the city, rural communities and farmers are also dealing with impacts from frozen pipes.

“You know, when we started this discussion earlier, we all said as spring moves forward we’re going to see so much more and we haven’t even touched the roads yet,” she said, while voicing her support to request a governor’s declaration.

Board Vice-Chair Mary Harrington also commented on the impact this winter has had not only on local municipalities, but homeowners too.

“I think so many individual homeowners have experienced costs because of this winter and they haven’t gone crying for help,” she said. “They’ve absorbed it into their family budget and it’s taken a real toll.”

On a positive note, Berbohm said all the ice is gone from the rivers with Saturday estimated to be peak water time on the Escanaba and Ford rivers.

“Everything seems to be running well. It’s just running fast,” he said.

The Rapid River had three ice jams but the Delta County Road Commission helped by removing and breaking up the ice, said Berbohm.

In other business, the board:

– awarded a bid for gas meter separation at the Delta County Service Center to Delta Mechanical (d/b/a Richer’s Refrigeration & Air Conditioning) of Escanaba, the lower of two contractor bids, at the cost of $24,840.

– awarded a bid for electrical meter separation at the Delta County Service Center to Billy Electric Inc. of Escanaba, the lowest of five contractor bids, at the cost of $38,500.

– awarded a bid for roofing replacement at the Delta County Service Center to Independent Roofing & Siding Co., of Escanaba, the lower of two contractor bids, at the cost of $195,876.

– authorized soliciting bids to hook up the generator for the Emergency Operation Center which will be housed at the Delta County Service Center.

– approved having Hansen’s Drain Cleaning of Escanaba use a camera to look at voids located underneath jail cells at the Delta County Jail. The county will then have CR Meyer inspect under slab conditions in the jail cell area and drill holes to get an idea of the size of voids for an estimate on how much aggregate or material is needed to fill the space. The board approved the CR Meyer proposal at the cost of $1,280.

– appointed Jousma Miller as the county government representative and Dan Menacher of building and zoning as the general public representative to the Delta County Solid Waste Planning Committee. The action was necessary as the committee needs to be reactivated since the county received a request to amend the Solid Waste Management Plan by Golder Associates, Inc. on behalf of the Escanaba Paper Company. Their goal is to amend the county plan to allow additional non-hazardous solid waste materials to be disposed within the Escanaba Paper Company Type III Landfill located in Wells Township.