Lutheran Social Services' flood recovery funding running out
Nancy Beers, head of Lutheran Social Services (LSS) Disaster Relief, gave an overview to the Carlton County Board of Commissioners of the 2012 flash flood recovery support her group has provided since June 2012 and promised to wrap up the final work by July 1. "Intense help is needed for 30 open cases in Carlton County yet," she explained, "and I am looking for additional funding for our two staff case workers who are handling these homeowners."
"Without further funding, these case workers will be laid off on April 1," Beers continued. "Many of the cases to be completed are homeowners that are the most vulnerable. Thirty-one clients are being referred for mental health counseling because of flood related issues. One of these caseworkers said she will donate two weeks of her own time to try to wrap up as many of the unresolved issues as she can. She doesn't want these people left hanging."
Commissioner Tom Proulx reflected, "This is the first time Commissioner Robert Olean and I have heard of these concerns, and we have been continuously involved in the county's flood relief committee work to the present." Lutheran Social Services had requested through Flood Response Coordinator Drew Digby to address the Carlton County Board of Commissioners in September 2013. No request was forwarded to the county board.
Beers explained she had met with Minnesota legislators two years ago and got a $250,000 grant for the LSS response with the Red Cross and Salvation Army partnered for disaster relief. She explained she had started with a $750,000 budget, which is now running out the end of March. She said she is proud of the 12,800 hours of volunteer service that has been documented by such groups as the Mennonites for the rebuilding efforts.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has provided $10.5 million for flood relief loans. Some money has been set aside for a number of Quick Start loans to ensure flood victims can stay in their homes. "This is quite unusual," Beers commented. "Timelines for these loans were extended because filing dates were missed. The paperwork needs to be resubmitted and the set aside funding will go to these preapproved needs."
Each of the two caseworkers addressed their work with the remaining flood victims. "They have no trust in government," one caseworker related. "It took me two hours negotiating in my car before one woman would let the contractors finish their work on her house. She thought that if county workers were allowed in her house that they would then condemn her home and throw her out."
The county board took no action at this time. The request from LSS will be addressed on the next board agenda.
DOT limited by
lack of funding
Engineer Walt Leu of the Department of Transportation (DOT) regional office gave an overview of summer highway work on state roadways. "More work is needed," said Leu, "but there is a lack of adequate funding. The gas tax has not been raised in 20 years. We of the DOT are trying to maintain the roadway system we have but cannot afford any new initiatives."
Leu explained that $7 million will be spent in Cloquet to upgrade Highway 33 and the stoplight junction of Big Lake Road and Doddrige Avenue. "Construction will be a nightmare," he said. "Access to many of Cloquet's busiest businesses will be difficult."
In 2015, Highway 27 west of Moose Lake will be resurfaced and $600,000 will be expended for the Highway 73 bridge over the west branch of the Kettle River by the West Branch Cemetery. The year 2015 also sees a resurfacing of County SAH 6 west from the Barnum exit 8 miles to Highway 73 north of Kettle River.
Finally, the old license and nursing services building at 30 North 10th St. in Cloquet is sold. Terms are $125,000 with a June 1 occupancy. An existing manufacturing business in Cloquet will employ 10 to 15 people for $10 to $25 per hour.
The Carlton County Board of Commissioners gave its blessing for the Big Lake Area Sanitary District (BLASD) to join their new sewer to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD). John Fredrickson, BLASD chairman, explained, "This plan provides our residents a viable option to replace the failing septic systems around Big Lake."
Word came from the Minnesota Department of Revenue that Carlton County's share of Indian gaming taxes collected by the state of Minnesota and paid by the Fond du Lac Band of the Chippewa Indians will be $46,771 for 2013.