County working on disaster plan

FAIRMONT – When disaster strikes, be prepared. That is the idea behind hazard mitigation plans required of all counties by the state of Minnesota.

Two representatives from Region 9 presented an updated plan for Martin County to county commissioners on Tuesday. Region 9, based in Mankato, is an entity that assists public, private and non-profit entities in various ways and across county borders.

“Hazard mitigation planning began in 2003,” said Danielle Walchuk, a regional development planner at Region 9. “Martin County’s first hazard mitigation plan was completed in 2008 and needs to be updated every five years.”

Only jurisdictions with a Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved hazard mitigation plan have access to federal grants following a disaster.

Ronda Allis, director of community and economic development at Region 9, pointed out that the county’s 2008 plan has lapsed.

“Technically, you don’t have a plan right now,” she said, meaning that if disaster were to strike, the county would not be eligible for federal dollars.

“I’d like to know why it was allowed to expire,” said Commissioner Dan Schmidtke. “That’s very disappointing.”

A rough draft of a plan update for Martin County was filed for federal review in May, which does show there is a plan in place waiting approval. A final draft is due in August.

“We need to allow a 90-day review for review of the draft,” Allis said. “There are time frames when communities can apply, and while we did apply in time, there were some communication issues, getting other information from cities and coordination.”

Another point of concern during the review was that some possible disasters were removed from the 2013 plan. Infectious disease, dam failure and terrorism were all struck. Commissioners Schmidtke and Steve Flohrs both say infectious disease should remain in the plan.

“With all the hog barns and such around here, I think infectious disease is something that should be in there,” Flohrs said.

Commissioner Elliot Belgard asked if it is too late to add infectious disease to the plan. Allis said a later revision is a better option, as attempting to add something now will delay the plan being finalized.

In other county commission business Tuesday, Martin County Highway Engineer Kevin Peyman presented a five-year plan for road reconstruction.

This year’s project is County Road 38, from Northrop to County Road 27, while a 2014 project will be County Road 39, from Interstate 90 to County Road 38. A second project scheduled for 2014 is County Road 27, from Interstate 90 to the Martin/Watonwan County line. For those projects, the county will need to borrow from its state aid allotment for next year.

“A lot of the price is just getting the equipment there,” Peyman said. “We had enough to do the County Road 38 stretch from 27 to 39, but it is cheaper to do the whole thing at the same time … By 2015, we’ll hopefully be getting caught up and back to normal.”

Projects in 2015 involve the southern portion of County Road 39, County Road 20 (Lake Aires Road south of Fairmont) and County Road 41, south of Fairmont to Highway 15.