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Still 30 unfinished flood relief cases in county

With the second anniversary of the 2012 flood only a little over two months away, some 30 flood recovery cases still remain to be wrapped up in Carlton County.  

“I didn’t know there were that many still open, and I serve on the [Long-term Recovery] committee,” commented Commissioner Tom Proulx at Monday’s Carlton County Board meeting. “I had no idea.”

Proulx was reacting to a flood recovery update given to the Board by Nancy Beers of Lutheran Social Services (LSS). Beers told commissioners that the recovery effort headed up by LSS will be out of money as of March 31, and the two remaining case workers will have to be withdrawn. She said any leftover cases will likely be handed over to Lakes and Pines if no additional funding is secured by LSS.

Beers said LSS has applied for technical assistance grant funds through Minnesota Housing, adding that no funds have ever been awarded for this particular purpose in the past.

“We figured it was worth a try, though,” she said.

Beers told commissioners it would take approximately $50,000 to complete LSS’s work with Carlton County’s remaining flood recovery cases, and she added that if any money was available through the county to continue the effort she feels confident everything could be wrapped up by June 30.

“We could easily work until the end of June on rebuilding, because there are some very complicated cases and situations to complete,” she said.

She explained that four total rebuilds have been completed in Carlton County, and three additional families put up modular homes instead. There are an additional 15 families scheduled to rebuild this spring, 10 of whom must reapply for Minnesota Housing’s Quick Start loans due to the passage of time.

“The funds have been set aside for the projects,” she explained, “but the residents must re-submit their paperwork and bids.”

Many of those with work remaining to be done, she said, face special challenges such as physical or mental health issues and some aren’t the actual deed holders to their property. There are also those experiencing trust issues after having lost a spouse, or being abandoned by the rest of their family, and so they are sometimes reluctant to let contractors into their homes.

Dean Minardi, the reconstruction manager and regional supervisor for LSS, commented, “There are a lot more hoarders out there than you think, people who are just plain reluctant to throw anything away.”

LSS disaster case managerSheryl Monett added, “One of the fears in some people’s world is thinking that we’re from the county and so they’re afraid we’ll come in and condemn their home. It sometimes takes lots of visits and handholding.”

Beers said among some of the other challenges to the flood recovery efforts thus far have been the lack of available contractors and the fact that the deadlines for the Small Business Association loans came right on the heels of the time the funds were allocated last October, allowing only 15 days to apply.

“I never have had anything like this before,” she commented. “We had to apply for most of the money after the deadline was already past.”

In all, Beers said LSS has worked with 411 flood recovery cases in Carlton County over the past 15-16 months. During that time period, LSS also referred 31 clients to Carlton County Public Health and Human Services for mental health support.

LSS originally opened three flood recovery offices in Carlton County, one in Cloquet, one in Moose Lake and one on the Fond du Lac Reservation (which was closed down in December). She added that it’s typical to begin to consolidate cases as time passes and the funding starts to wind down.

“I certainly wish we were done because we’ve been here a long time,” Beers commented. “But we’re invested in the lives of these people and we want to help them get their rebuilding done.”

Beers’ presentation on behalf of LSS came at the request of Commissioner Gary Peterson, who asked that an update be given to the Board before a decision was made on whether to transfer funding to extend the contract of Long Term Recovery Manager Drew Digby.

Commissioner Marv Bodie thanked Beers for her presentation and indicated that the Board would discuss what action to take at its next meeting.