FEMA Denies Disaster Funds

GMF and Manitou Springs Snubbed by Federal Government For Emergency Dollars

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

Uncle Sam has issued a dire, stern message to the flood-saturated communities of Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs and other nearby areas: You are on your own.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied disaster funds for both GMF and Manitou Springs, El Paso County and a group of other counties. The minimum threshold of nearly $8 million in damages to public infrastructure and associated property apparently was not met, at least based on the calculations of FEMA officials.

This will serve as another financial bomb shell for both GMF and Manitou Springs, which are still reeling from the damage incurred in late July.

According to Jason Wells, the interim town boss for Green Mountain Fall, the recent “no disaster money” decision puts towns and areas impacted by the late floods of July back to square one.

Wells said GMF will now try to seek monies from the state’s emergency management office. And again, he stressed that there are no guarantees for assistance. The town was clobbered with a laundry list of  problem areas, following the massive flood of July 23 and other related storms.

New project manager Andre Brackin also listed four major “value of risk” designations, which involved significant bridge and culvert destruction, blocking off access to residents. He believed these types of designations would rate highly with FEMA.

Initially, officials were somewhat confident about meeting the minimum threshold to release the FEMA disaster monies. But that didn’t occur, even with a 10-county area. One factor that may have hurt the chances of the impacted areas was that private damages weren’t counted as part of the equation. 

“I was surprised,” admitted Wells, in describing the denial decision. FEMA and state officials had even conducted a tour of the damage in GMF.

But even if this minimum damage threshold was met, the town still had an uphill fight to garner major monies in comparison to other areas ravaged by the floods, according to experts.  

 Manitou Springs has suffered significant damage, with parts of the downtown practically cut off. Initial damage claims were estimated at more than $1.5 million, with 1,500 cubic yards of sediments and woody debris cleared from the town, immediately after the July 23 rampage.

Both Manitou and Green Mountain Falls issued disaster declarations, shortly after the floods.

Back to Square One

With this verdict, GMF will have to use their own limited financial resources. The town now is back to doing limited maintenance on roads with only two employees. “Two guys are doing all they can,” said the town manager.

A big mag chloride road enhancement application is scheduled for later this month, according to Wells. This preventive action was supposed to occur a month and a half ago.

Instead, officials found themselves in a flood relief mode. Also, Wells said the project manager would be compiling plans for infrastructure improvements, resulting from the floods.

The complaints, though, keep arriving at GMF Town Hall.

Last week, even with a canceled trustees meeting due to a lack of quorum, a few residents grumbled about drainage woes they are encountering on Belvidere Avenue and pleaded for help. In fact, they wouldn’t leave the meeting room, even with the adjournment of the session. Wells admitted he could only do so much in dealing with other agencies responsible for the problems.

Virtually every town meeting in GMF has turned into a road complaint show.

Creek Clean-up Week

On the upside, Mayor Jane Newberry read a proclamation last week declaring Creek Clean-up Week between Sept. 29 and Oct. 7.

This followed a brief presentation of Larry Small, the former vice-mayor of Colorado Springs, and the executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed District.

Small cited the Creek Clean-up as a huge success since it started in 2014. For example, he said the number of groups participating in the program have practically doubled, with  more than 30 tons of debris removed in the most recent clean-up.  He lauded the support the effort has received from Green Mountain Falls.

Small also made a slight pitch for money. Ultimately, he believes the watershed’s prospects would greatly improve with a slight county-wide property tax increase. With a tiny increase, estimated at about $5 a month, he said this could leverage $37 million a year for the watershed district.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the idea of a tax increase for this type of program is often frowned on by the voters.

Several people in the audience inquired about Woodland Park getting more involved in dealing with the Fountain Creek clean-up and relief efforts. But Small said Woodland is not part of the district.

Newberry cited the program as a good benefit for Green Mountain Falls.