Tornado destroys house

Shiawassee County’s request for a State Declaration of Emergency and disaster relief following those tornadoes last month was denied.

On March 14, tornadoes left 18 miles of damaged and destroyed homes and businesses. The twisters impacted 136 structures, including 94 homes, 4 businesses, 16 barns, and 22 RV’s. The total cost of damage is estimated at nearly $10 million dollars to homes and businesses in the county, according to Shiawassee County officials.

"We are obviously disappointed in the Governors decision," stated Jeremy Root, County Board Chair. "She [Gov. Gretchen Whitmer] called me personally and said she would help and then we received the call last week denying our request, it’s just disappointing."

Due to the State Declaration being denied, the request for Public Act 390, Section 19 funding, was also denied. The assistance under that subsection provides grants, excluding reimbursement for capital outlay expenditures, in mitigation of the extraordinary burden of a county or municipality in relation to its available resources. The cost to the response for many of the small part-time fire departments reached 10% or more of their annual operating budget.

“Our fire department is always ready to respond and protect our community, but this disaster squeezed our departments budget,” stated Bert DeClerg, Vernon Township Supervisor.

Shiawassee County residents are unhappy with the state's decision.

"I think it's wrong," said Gary Bellinger, a Corunna resident.

"Getting off on the wrong foot sounds like to me," said Valle Rence, a Corunna resident.

Trent Atkins is the director of emergency management for Shiawassee County.

He said the money was badly needed.

"Its for assistance and resources," Atkins said. "Federal assistance, financial relief for homes and businesses."

Atkins said the request from the state's Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund, which provides financial relief to county and local municipalities that participated in the disaster response and recovery operations was also denied by Gov. Whitmer. 

TV5 reached out to Gov. Whitmer and told to contact the Emergency Management and Homeland Security with the Michigan State Police.

Dale George, a public information officer, said to put an emergency declaration in place, there has to be unreasonable strain on the county. 

In a statement he said:

"The information provided to the state from Shiawassee County estimated costs to public agencies at $150,000. Although the county incurred expenses in responding to and recovering from the storm, local commitment did not place unreasonably great demands upon the country or clearly demonstrate exhaustion of local effort."

"The amount of resources that they deployed for the week there and onto the next week cost money," Atkins said. "In some cases it costs as much as 10% and they're operating budget."

Atkins said he doesn't believe the county will try to challenge the state's decision. 

A decision that doesn't sit well with many throughout Shiawassee County. 

"How would they like to be in that situation," said Gary Bellinger, a Corunna resident.

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