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City Council Looking To Tap Rainy Day Funds To Aid Flood Cleanup

By Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 20--Warren City Council is looking at using about $10 million of the city's rainy day fund for no- or low-interest loans to help residents clean up their homes damaged in last week's flood.

"I think it's an extremely appropriate use of the fund balance," Councilman Keith Sadowski said today, a day after he proposed the idea at a council meeting Tuesday.

He said council unanimously approved a resolution asking the city attorney to establish guidelines and procedures for the flood relief program.

Council is to discuss the matter again Monday at a 6 p.m. meeting at the Warren Community Center. Sadowski said he hopes there is enough information in place for council to vote on the program at its regular council meeting the following day.

On Friday, Mayor Jim Fouts said an estimated 18,247 structures were damaged in the Aug. 11 rainstorm and subsequent flooding in Warren. He said public and private damage in the city was estimated at $90 million to $100 million.

Macomb County officials said today that 28,857 structures were damaged in the county, including Warren. Public and private damage countywide, including Warren, is estimated over $301 million. Last week, Oakland County's damage estimates were $337 million.

While officials in Warren and throughout metro Detroit are hopeful federal dollars will be approved to help with flood damage in the region, Sadowski said it can take some time for federal money to get here.

Warren's loan program would help while officials wait for answers from agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Sadowski said the city's rainy day fund is healthy at about $52 million, and the program could be created without a major impact on the city's finances.

He said the program would help residents with cleanup to create a healthy environment, not refinishing their damaged homes. The loans, Sadowski said, could be for at least five years with payback possibly handled through a special assessment so it's on tax bills, similar to the sidewalk program.

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The program would help those who have been hit hard by the economy and don't have the money to hire companies to do a proper cleanup or those who can't afford a loan for the work because of high interest rates.

Sadowski said he is concerned that if the homes aren't cleaned up correctly "two or three months down the line we're going to have a bigger problem on our hands," he said, referring to mold issues.

He said the amount a resident could receive in a loan would be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the amount of water or damage they have. Residents would still be eligible if they have started the cleanup process and would need to show receipts for the work completed, he said.

He said another council member also suggested that residents who take advantage of the program could have permit fees waived or receive help with inspections for electrical and plumbing matters.

Sadowski said he would like to get the program started as quickly as possible.

In Oakland County today, Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced that service-connected disabled veterans impacted by the flood will have the opportunity to apply for up to $500 in disaster relief funds from the Disabled American Veterans.

The group will accept disaster relief applications at the Pontiac office of the county's Veterans' Services Division from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday. The office is at 1200 North Telegraph, Building 26 East.

Macomb County veterans also have the opportunity to apply for up to $500. A DAV representative will be at the Macomb County Veteran's Office on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The office is located at 21885 Dunhan Road, Suite 3 in Clinton Township.

Applicants must be a service-connected disabled veteran or his or her widow or widower or dependent; show that the request for monetary assistance is substantiated by the need as compared to his or her resources, and show that his or her loss is not covered by insurance or compensated for by another relief agency.

Contact Christina Hall: chall99@freepress.com

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