Government

Grand Rapids looks to state and public to cover flood costs

April 24, 2013
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Grand Rapids looks to state and public to cover flood costs
The Grand Rapids Wastewater Treatment Plant. Photo via grcity.us

Although the city’s cost to protect riverfront property in downtown Grand Rapids hasn’t been finalized yet, it has been projected to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Most of that spending likely went to safeguard the Wastewater Treatment Plant that serves 300,000 customers from 1300 Market Ave. SW. Had Grand River floodwaters invaded it, there would have been a public health problem throughout its service area, and the city would likely have been flooded with lawsuits seeking damages. But the plant was secured early Sunday evening.

“We will continue to be diligent even though the worst seems to be behind us. Our work is far from done. We will need to assess the damage and learn from this experience,” said Mayor George Heartwell in a statement.

So far, damage estimates have been limited to property, and there haven’t been any reports of structural damage to buildings along the river.

Dennis Moosebrugger, president of the Arena District, a coalition of two-dozen businesses downtown, said the flooding has only closed the Bistro in the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and the restaurant isn’t expected to reopen for another three to five weeks. But the Arena District still plans to go ahead with its Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on Saturday, May 4, in the Area 3 parking lot between Weston and Oakes.

“Private property owners along the Grand River will require the advice of experts to stabilize and protect their buildings,” added the mayor.

State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, has pledged to do all he can to convince the state that it needs to chip in and help the city cover its cost from the flooding, once the city asks for that financial assistance.

“I’ve had discussions with the city manager and at this point nothing has been requested specifically. However, I believe the city will be asking and I’m willing to offer some assistance to reimburse the city up to the $500,000 that the city incurred in extraordinary costs, with most of those associated with protecting the Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said Dillon.

“If it would have been breached, it would have cost multi, multi millions of dollars worth of public sector damage and probably hundreds of millions of dollars in private sector claims against the city,” he added.

So for now, Dillon said the plan is to approach Lansing for financial assistance. But if the state is labeled as a disaster area, he said that would bring the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, into the picture.

“Probably the place that I’m going to focus on at this point is trying to make sure that Grand Rapids is reimbursed its cost associated with saving taxpayers and private businesses millions and millions of dollars,” he said.

“Also I think in the near term, the city is going to continue to request assistance from the State Police in using its helicopter for damage assessment, so they can document any damage should they seek reimbursement on further issues with state and federal authorities.”

The city is accepting donations from the public to help cover its flood-relief costs and will acknowledge those who contribute. Contributions can be made by credit card and check. Call the city’s Treasurer’s office at 456-3020 to use a credit card. A check should be made payable to GR Treasurer — Flood Relief and be mailed to City Treasurer’s Office, 300 Monroe Ave. NW, Room 220, Grand Rapids, MI 40503.

“I’m not sure what state department would process the city’s request, but we’ll be looking into that,” said Dillon. “Suffice to say that I’ll be leaving no stone unturned in working closely with the city to make sure that any assistance from the state is available.”

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