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Settling up on a flood of bills
by Nick Mason
Feb 28, 2012 | 1633 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Adam Olson and Christian Anderson, with Olson Construction, add sandbags to the Carver levee last spring.
Adam Olson and Christian Anderson, with Olson Construction, add sandbags to the Carver levee last spring.
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The city of Carver is slated to be reimbursed more than 90 percent of what it spent last year to protect residents and businesses amid official predictions of potential record flooding.

The city government spent $360,374.84, most of it to raise the flood-control earthen levee about 2-1/2 feet in the spring of 2011 and to remove the entire raised section after the flooding threat ended.

Grim warnings from the National Weather Service wound up being exaggerated. Weather conditions improved as winter turned into spring and Minnesota River flooding was relatively modest. Carver’s newly elevated levee, stretching more than 5,000 feet in length, never was challenged.

Carver has already received two reimbursement payments totaling $243,542.21 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That represents the full federal share of 75 percent of eligible expenses.

Still to come are two payments expected to total $81,180.72 from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which this month re-ceived the city’s final paperwork about flood-control costs. Those two payments would represent the full state share of 25 percent of eligible expenses. The first of two reimbursements should arrive in late February or March.

“We now have their close-out documents and we are processing them as efficiently and timely as we can,” Julie Anderson, spokeswoman for the state agency, said Feb. 7. “We anticipate putting in the request for payment this week.”

No reimbursements will be made for $35,651.91 of city expenses, according to Cathy Elke, the city’s bookkeeper/accounting clerk.

“The city did eat some of the costs,” Elke told the Chaska Herald. “We incurred some costs we could not submit. A fair amount was labor. There were some bills, such as repairs to flood pumps, that they said would have had to be done anyway.”

Mayor Greg Osterdyk and other city council members wanted to keep most of the raised levee intact after the flooding threat ex-pired. But FEMA insisted that its rules required the entire raised section be removed or the city would be disqualified from receiv-ing federal reimbursements.

“The process makes no sense,” Osterdyk said during a council meeting last June. “We’re looking at potentially saving FEMA some of those dollars by keeping protections of the levee up so that they won’t have to remove them and pay the additional expense. And they wouldn’t have to pay to rebuild it whenever the next flood event is.”

The council and City Administrator Brent Mareck agreed the city could not afford to pay the entire cost of raising the levee, so the council reluctantly decided last August to remove the 2-1/2-foot addition that they had tried to keep intact.

“Once we determined what our options were, it wasn’t feasible for the city to spend the entire amount to leave it up,” Osterdyk said during a Feb. 8 interview. “I’m glad we were able to work with the state and federal authorities on what we had to do to protect the town and, given the same circumstances, I would do exactly the same thing again.”

That does not appear to be necessary this year. Carver officials are focusing on other topics instead of talking about flood prepa-rations. The current risk of Minnesota River flooding this spring is deemed minimal by the National Weather Service because of below-average rainfall last fall followed by little snow during the winter.

“At this point, there have been no discussions [about potential flooding this spring],” Osterdyk said. “And from what I’ve read, it’s certainly not a threat this spring.”

CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT

Last year, FEMA’s insistence that Carver remove the raised section of levee or lose federal aid attracted attention from U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-Lakeville), whose congressional district includes Carver.

Kline asked FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate last July to help Carver keep the elevated levee and “break through the federal bureaucracy to find permanent relief from the devastating effects of annual floods.”

Fugate and FEMA refused to budge.

Kline went further in October by introducing legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would permit communities to keep flood-protection measures in place without being penalized by loss of federal disaster aid.

“FEMA’s inflexible guidelines create bureaucratic boondoggles for communities in Minnesota and nationwide that face repeated flooding,” Kline said, while announcing his bill. “My legislation provides constituents the flexibility to work with FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect their communities from future flooding while saving taxpayer dollars.”

Kline’s bill is being reviewed this year by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, according to Troy Young, Kline’s communications direc-tor.

Kline has not yet lined up a sponsor to carry the companion legislation in the U.S. Senate. The legislation must be approved in both the House of Representatives and Senate to become law.

“The congressman will continue to work with his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to explore a companion bill,” Young wrote in an e-mail Feb. 10. “He hopes the Senate will join him in helping our local communities break through the federal bureaucracy to find permanent relief from the devastating effects of annual floods.”

LEVEE COSTS

Carver paid private companies nearly five times as much for designing and constructing the raised section of levee compared to how much the city spent removing it later, according to city records shown on a chart accompanying this story.

Contractors and the city’s engineering firm, then named Bonestroo Inc. and now named Stantec Inc., were paid a total of $230,926.07 for elevating the levee. The city later paid $47,343.26 to remove the raised section.

“There was more equipment and machine time to place the clay material than to remove it,” Carver Public Works Director Paul Schultz said during an interview Feb. 8. “We had so much more equipment and man time to prepare the site. Then we had to place the material and then do the compaction on top of it.

“Removing it was so much more simple,” Schultz said. “For removal, it was one backhoe, one skid loader and some trucks.”

Most earthen clay used to elevate the levee came from the site of Levi Griffin Road, a four-lane road now being built as the en-trance road to the Mills Fleet Farm store under construction northwest of Highway 212 and Jonathan Carver Parkway. But that site did not provide enough clay for the levee project, so more was hauled from a Wm. Mueller & Sons Inc. gravel pit, Schultz explained.

When the raised section of levee was removed, all the earthen clay was taken to Mueller’s pit.

“We wish we could have stockpiled it, but the city doesn’t have any place to store it,” Schultz said. “We talked with (the city of) Chaska because we knew they had a project going on, but they also had no place to store it. So the only place was to put it at Mueller’s.”

Flood costs/reimbursements

Here are a summary of 2011 flood-control costs paid by the city of Carver and reimbursements to the city by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Carver expenses:

Costs eligible for reimbursement: $324,722.93

Costs not reimbursed: $35,651.91

Total: $360,374.84

Reimbursements:

Received from Federal Emergency Management Agency: $243,542.21

Anticipated from Minnesota Department of Public Safety: $81,180.72

Total: $324,722.93

Summary of costs eligible for reimbursement:

Flood control levee construction and removal: $313,605.04

Fence work/walking path along levee: $6,973.01

Flood patrol: $2,545.14

Debris removal at Riverside Park: $1,599.74

Total: $324,722.93

Summary of costs not reimbursed:

City payroll: $19,664

Repair pumps and prepare generators: $15,030

Some Bonestroo Inc. engineering services: $957.91

Total: $35,651.91

NOTE: Costs not reimbursed include $33,951.91 of actual costs and $1,700 of estimated costs.

SOURCE: CITY OF CARVER

Contractors

Here are payments totaling $283,705.33 that the city of Carver made to contractors and other companies providing flood-control services to the city during 2011:

Raising levee:

Wm. Mueller & Sons Inc. of Hamburg: $78,629.14

Ron Olson Construction of Cologne: $63,959.25

Bonestroo Inc. of St. Paul: $35,108.49

S. M. Hentges and Sons Inc. of Jordan: $30,969.19

Dave’s Excavating of Carver: $22,260

Total: $230,926.07

Removing raised portion of levee:

Dave’s Excavating of Carver: $32,830

Wm. Mueller & Sons Inc. of Hamburg: $13,640

Bonestroo Inc. of St. Paul: $873.26

Total: $47,343.26

Other work:

Wellens Agronomics of Carver: $4,000

Rescom Electric of Carver: $1,186

Jim’s Excavating of Cologne: $250 

Total: $5,436

SOURCE: CITY OF CARVER
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