Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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State funds heading to area to aid in tornado recovery

The northwest Ohio communities hit hard by the June 5 tornadoes are to receive $673,837 in state emergency funds to help pay for disaster relief efforts.

The Ohio Controlling Board on Monday unanimously agreed to transfer the state emergency contingency funds to the Department of Public Safety to help it pay for the efforts in Fulton, Wood, and Ottawa counties.

"We can all be proud of Ohioans' heroic response to this disaster," Gov. Ted Strickland said. "These funds will help support our local communities and families as they begin to recover and rebuild their lives."

Mr. Strickland has asked for federal emergency disaster assistance, but has not heard whether that request will be approved. As a result, the department doesn't know the final cost.

Much will depend on whether the state funds are used to match federal disaster assistance or are directly spent to help individuals, local governments, and state agencies through various state programs.

The legislative controlling board agreed to transfer the Ohio money, increasing the department's budget for state match and disaster assistance to $4.9 million.

The department estimated that the high winds and tornadoes destroyed 45 structures and damaged 119 others to some degree. Any funds not spent would be returned to the contingency fund.

Meanwhile, in Lake Township, the site of some of the worst devastation, Police Chief Mark Hummer said he was satisfied with the progress the community has made toward recovery.

He said the cleanup efforts should end today and the township will begin holding meetings to plan the long-term recovery tomorrow.

"People ask me how I'm doing and I say: 'How can I be doing anything other than great given the help we've received from local governments in the region and the community at large?'•" Mr. Hummer said. "I'm just amazed at the progress we're making in such a short period of time."

Officials will meet this week with the township's insurance agency to discuss plans for rebuilding the police and administration building destroyed in the storm.

Chief Hummer was hopeful the area would be declared a federal disaster zone, which he said would help bring in more financial aid. He said the village has spent more than $100,000 in overtime for the police, fire, and public works departments because of the disaster.

The chief urged anyone from the township who has been displaced by the storm to call the police department's nonemergency number - 419-666-5500 - and register contact details.

The department will let callers know what help becomes available.

People displaced by the storm throughout Wood County should contact the American Red Cross at 419-329-6060.

United Way spokesman Kelli Kreps said general volunteers are no longer needed in Wood County, but people with specific skills in areas such as construction, tree-trimming, painting, or electrical work should contact 211.

Volunteers and donations have played a crucial role in the recovery efforts.

Lucas County yesterday added to those donations by pledging two surplus sheriff's department vehicles to the Lake Township police department. Both vehicles are Ford Crown Victorias that had been used by the Lucas County Sheriff's Office before they were decommissioned.

"These surplus vehicles will help Lake Township replace vehicles that were destroyed and recover that much faster," Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said in a statement.

In Ottawa County, the local Emergency Management Agency announced it would close its Volunteer Reception Center as of today. The last pickup of storm debris was scheduled for 8 this morning.

"We're very, very grateful for all the help and support we've had in Ottawa County," said Fred Peterson, the agency's director.

The next step for that county will be to ensure that families receive the financial, technical, and medical support they need to rebuild their lives, he added.

That could include assisting people with insurance deductibles or items not covered by insurance, helping them navigate the process of hiring a contractor or obtaining building permits, finding temporary housing, or receiving counseling. He said a committee made up of local agencies, charities, businesses, and church groups is working to provide that support.

Fulton County will continue debris cleanup in the Swancreek Township area for the next few days, said Justin Thompson, local EMA director. He said huge strides were made over the weekend with the help of volunteers.

"It's night and day compared to what it was," Mr. Thompson said. "It's phenomenal what's been done."

Volunteers are still needed, but should call before coming out.

Potential volunteers who live in the area can call 211. Those from outside the area can contact 1-800-468-4357. Volunteers are asked to check in at Swancreek Township Hall at 5565 County Road D, Delta.

Staff writer Jim Provance contributed to this report.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

or 419-724-6272.

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