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Published: Saturday, 8/25/2007

Findlay appeals for relief from state to clean up town

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
AND JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

FINDLAY - As people in several northern Ohio counties tried yesterday to dry out from the worst flood in a century, local, state, and federal officials stepped up their efforts to help.

But the drying process was impeded last night as thunderstorms dumped more water on the area.

A little more than a third of an inch was recorded by 10 p.m. in Findlay, where officials yesterday asked the Ohio Emergency Management Agency to send in state personnel to assist in cleanup efforts.

Mayor Tony Iriti said that could come in the form of National Guard troops.

"We need manpower, so we're asking them to come in and help with trash and debris collection," he said.

The first garbage trucks were out yesterday picking up flood-damaged items that residents piled at curbs, and the mayor said those pick-ups will continue through the weekend and into the foreseeable future.

"We know it's going to take time, and we want people to know it's not going to be us coming by one time and that's it," he said.

Trash haulers from across the county and even neighboring counties deluged the Hancock County Landfill yesterday, resulting in backups at the facility.

Hancock County Commissioner Phil Riegle said the landfill will be open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and tomorrow to accommodate the extra loads.

Commissioners also ordered modular office units that may be needed while cleanup continues at county offices.

The worst-hit building housed the board of elections, the county health department, the county veterans office, and the Court Appointed Special Advocate program on West Main Cross Street, just west of the courthouse.

Mr. Riegle said that building is expected to be out of service for four to six weeks, while the commissioners' office on South Main Street and an adjacent office building may require four weeks to clean.

"We're trying to get government back up and running, but the smell was just really bad in a few areas," he said.

The county has no official estimate of damages to county property, although Mr. Riegle said it would be "well over half a million dollars." The buildings did not have flood insurance.

Commissioners plan to meet with township trustees and village mayors at 8 a.m. today in Findlay council chambers to outline the process for applying for federal assistance.

Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are scheduled to be in northwest Ohio this weekend to do an assessment and make a recommendation to President Bush about declaring Findlay and surrounding locales federal disaster areas, which would make federal dollars available to help those affected by the flood.

Mayor Iriti said he has been overwhelmed by the assistance Findlay has gotten from area fire departments as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

"We had fire trucks from Wauseon and different local jurisdictions that took over manning our fire stations so our personnel could go home and get some rest," he said. "I can't say enough about how much that means to us and our community. The only thing I can say is, God forbid it happens to them. But if it does, we'll be there to help."

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) was back at the Cube, a recreation center in Findlay, yesterday to offer her support. She donated 10 submersible pumps to help flood victims, and her spokesman said the West Erie Congregation and Area Relief Effort will inherit those pumps for future victims in other northwest Ohio communities.

Miss Kaptur also joined U.S. Sens. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) as well as U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana), Paul Gillmor (R., Tiffin), and John Boehner (R., West Chester) in co-signing a letter to President Bush yesterday asking for federal assistance.

They wrote that if "Ohio's own assets [prove to be] insufficient it is our hope that your office will not hesitate to provide federal assistance to help blunt the extraordinary costs and damages related to this disaster."

Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray announced yesterday he was making an extra $50 million available to reduce interest rates for homeowners affected by the floods who need to borrow money or refinance their mortgages.

Calling it the "2007 Renew Ohio Program," Mr. Cordray said the borrowers can get their interest rates reduced by 3 percent on loans of up to $250,000.

Mr. Cordray also said that farmers and small business owners affected by the floods will be given priority consideration if they apply for similar interest-related relief through the Small Business Linked Deposit Program.

The treasurer's office has about $500 million available to invest in the linked deposit program. On Thursday, Mr. Cordray sent a letter and application forms to banks throughout the state.

Beginning Monday, Putnam County residents who meet certain income requirements and were affected by the flooding can apply for funds through the Putnam County Department of Job and Family Services.

The funds must be used for emergency shelter, home repair, moving expenses, insurance deductibles, and items to be used during the cleaning process.

Information regarding the service funds will be held at Trinity Methodist Church in Ottawa from noon to about 4 p.m. Monday, and from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The city of Toledo lent a hand yesterday by deploying a fire engine to flood-ravaged Shelby, Ohio, capable of providing both fire protection and emergency medical services.

Toledo's engine will remain in Shelby through tomorrow. The Shelby Fire Department lost some of its equipment to the flood.

And businesses from the private sector continued to help.

Numerous restaurants have donated food to local shelters all week, and yesterday FirstEnergy Corp. announced that all of its residential customers affected by the flood can defer all or part of their electric bills while they deal with damage to their homes.

At least seven of 91 employees of Findlay plastic manufacturer Rowmark LLC had severe damage to their homes, and many others had flooded basements and other problems.

So the company this week bought mops, brooms, wet/dry vacuums, and other items in Toledo to help employees. It also is offering them low-interest loans and donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross, said Duane Jebbett, president and chief executive.

Officials also continued to caution residents in many areas about the water.

The American Red Cross has been offering tetanus shots for those who come into contact with the contaminated flood water, and Miss Kaptur on Thursday encouraged those people receive injections of hepatitis vaccine.

The Putnam County Office of Public Safety has advised those living in Ottawa, Glandorf, Miller City, and within the Putnam County Water District to boil all water before drinking it because of organisms that may have entered the water supply.

Those water customers also have been placed on a mandatory water restriction, meaning water is only to be used for drinking.

Staff writer Julie McKinnon contributed to this report.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com or

419-410-5055.



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