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Published: Tuesday, 7/25/2006

Sarantou urges flood tally to pursue U.S. aid

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo councilman and Lucas County commissioner candidate George Sarantou yesterday called for a complete accounting of local government costs in responding to recent flooding in hopes of gaining federal reimbursement.

But it appears the area is a long way from qualifying.

Mr. Sarantou, a Republican running against Democrat Ben Konop in the Nov. 7 election, said the threshold for local governments to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is $1.3 million in countywide spending. That would allow local governments to be reimbursed for 75 percent of their expenses, he said.

According to Tom Barnhizer, deputy director of the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, the public expenditures reported so far are $447,864. He said FEMA has approved some additional expenditures that bring the total to $496,000.

"This most recent figure is still far from what is needed to qualify for reimbursement under a public assistance declaration," Mr. Barnhizer said.

He said FEMA queried all jurisdictions twice and his staff phoned all the jurisdictions.

"We believe that we have full reporting within the county," Mr. Barnhizer said.

Mr. Sarantou didn't identify any communities that he believed were not reporting their damage costs. But he said new information about damage from the floods comes in every day, and there may be communities that had costs that they haven't reported.

Toledo and neighboring communities experienced widespread flooding from a series of four storms beginning June 21 and ending July 14.

"If we fail to do an adequate accounting of our costs in infrastructure, overtime, equipment, and facilities, we won't get the help from the federal government that we deserve," Mr. Sarantou said.

Brian Schwartz, a spokesman for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said the administration was still compiling the costs of responding to the storm damage. He said the most recent figure for Toledo is $266,000, and is only for the June 21-23 flood response.

So far, only damage from the June 21-23 period has been declared eligible for federal disaster assistance.

Last week, Mr. Sarantou called for a comprehensive study of regional storm water drainage issues and suggested it be funded with the help of federal money.

As he did last week, Mr. Konop yesterday accused Mr. Sarantou of using the disaster for political reasons.

"He's had five years on city council and several years as chairman of the finance committee to address these issues proactively. He failed to do so," Mr. Konop said.

He said the wide gap between the $1.3 million target and the reported level of public spending so far proves his contention that Mr. Sarantou is using the disaster to further his political goals.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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