Washtenaw County establishes $500K disaster relief fund in wake of Dexter tornado
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday night to establish a $500,000 disaster relief fund in response to last week's tornado.
The county plans to use the money to provide continued assistance to residents impacted by the storm that left dozens of houses in the Dexter area in ruins.
"Despite the fact that citizens themselves emerged unscathed, property damage was extensive," County Administrator Verna McDaniel wrote in a memo to the board. "Nearly 20 homes were completely destroyed, and almost 200 more were badly damaged. There are always going to be needs in these situations that governmental entities must meet."
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
In wake of the disaster, the county has been working with Dexter Township and Dexter Village to put a joint website in place with the dual purpose of informing citizens of the most up-to-date information and volunteer recruitment. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office — which includes the Emergency Operations Center — County Parks and the county's administration have taken steps to ensure a safe environment that allows workers to continue cleanup.
McDaniel said the tornado that touched down in Dexter left a path of destruction and created a need for security and emergency services, as well as cleanup and waste disposal services. The county has actively been involved in each of those efforts.
Nine dumpsters have been provided through a subcontractor and will be needed for some time as building debris cannot be dumped in the Chelsea landfill, McDaniel said.
Sheriff’s Office employees have been working on overtime to ensure the disaster area is safe for workers and homeowners. McDaniel said the disaster relief fund, approved by a 9-0 vote with two commissioners absent, will pay for those overtime hours.
The relief fund also provides the county with the necessary resources to hire contractors to remove debris and continue disposing waste not allowed in the Chelsea landfill.
Commissioner Rob Turner, R-Chelsea, was given credit Wednesday night for his leadership in marshaling resources and working with Dexter officials to coordinate county resources.
Dexter Township Supervisor Pat Kelly and state Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, appeared before commissioners to talk about the county's response to the disaster. They all agreed the county's employees should be commended.
"I think it's important that you all know what a great job your county employees have done. It was spectacular," said Ouimet, a former Washtenaw County commissioner.
"They were controlling traffic, which I think was exceedingly well done, and they went house to house where the tornado hit making sure everybody was accounted for," Ouimet said. "I think Jerry Clayton and his troops deserve a real positive stroke on the back for what they did, and those guys worked tirelessly around the clock for many days to do this."
Kelly echoed those sentiments.
"I did want to come here to let this whole board know how much my township and all of us out there appreciate everything that has happened these last five days," Kelly said. "This county should be damn proud of themselves today."
"Personally I am very proud of Washtenaw County," said Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor, giving special recognition to the Sheriff's Office and emergency management.
McDaniel said the public was notified of the storm last Thursday more than 20 minutes before the tornado struck, and residents sought appropriate shelter.
Ouimet is working on writing a bill that, if passed, would provide some state assistance to cover overtime and other costs for police, fire and public works employees, as well as any infrastructure costs incurred by local governments during disasters.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.