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As City employees came up from the basement after the EF-3 tornado on July 19, 2018, we looked outside to the parking lot where our City and personal vehicles were parked and saw them laden with debris. The businesses across the street were in shambles. I went upstairs to my office and the window had blown in with shards of glass everywhere. Down the hallway, there was a big hole in the roof that we later discovered was from the Coliseum’s roof landing on City Hall. Since payroll needed to be processed the very next week and tracking all tornado costs was essential, numerous new accounting codes were quickly established. At this point, what needed to be tracked and in what detail was undefined. My tactic was to track it now and revise it later if need be. There were parallel things to be tracked. The first was to identify claims for insurance reimbursements. This included replacement costs for vehicles, equipment, buildings, plus staff time cleaning up, staff moving to different buildings etc. The City’s insurance had a $10,000 deductible for this event. To date, the insurance company has reimbursed the City approximately $4.3 million.
In September, the City was declared by FEMA as eligible for public assistance. This meant the City was eligible for reimbursement of costs for community clean-up and emergency costs in the tornado area. FEMA assigns different categories based on the work needed. There were 5 categories we were eligible for. The biggest expense of $1.6 million was in Category A for debris removal in streets and alleys. There are numerous projects under Category B, but one was for emergency protective services. This was primarily the police and fire department responding to calls, barricading roads, directing traffic and enforcing curfews. The other categories were for smaller projects. To date, we have submitted nearly $2 million in total expenses. The City has only been reimbursed for two of the smaller categories in the amount of $9,067.
The documents required for the above expenses include staff timesheets, copies of contracts, invoices, cancelled checks, longitude and latitude of each tree that was removed, how much debris was taken to Marshall Co. landfill or to the compost, etc. All of this information is still being reviewed. If allowable, FEMA will reimburse 75% and the State of Iowa will reimburse 10%. The City will be responsible for the other 15%, but will use donated time and materials towards that.
For me and other City staff, the effect from the tornado still looms almost 1 year later. Know that the Finance Department is working hard behind the scenes and will continue to do so until the entire disaster claim is done.