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August 22, 2014

Councilman floats flood assistance loan plan

Mayor says questions remain about how program would be implemented

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — Talk about rainy days.

Warren got one and then some Aug. 11, when more than 5 inches of water fell from the sky and flooded basements, swamped cars, closed roads and left residents stranded.

City Council member Keith Sadowski said he’d like to explore putting up to $10 million from the city’s estimated $45 million in cash reserves — sometimes referred to as a “rainy day fund” — to work helping residents recover from the devastating flood that damaged an estimated 18,000 homes.

Sadowski’s proposal to explore low-interest loans from the fund balance was approved by council members Aug. 19, and the matter was set for further discussion during a special session at 6 p.m. Aug. 25, after the Warren Weekly went to press.

“As a local government, the citizens of Warren have been very good in the fact that they’ve approved several millages in order to help us remain a healthy government,” Sadowski said. “This is where we should start to return the favor, and we should try to help distribute some of this money out in low-interest loans.”

Sadowski said the amount held in Warren’s cash reserves would allow the city to distribute $10 million without hurting its financial standing.

He estimated about 5,000 homes experienced damages averaging $2,000.

But Warren Mayor Jim Fouts put the estimated toll from the Aug. 11 flooding much higher. The mayor said city assessors estimated that 18,000 homes were damaged. He suspected damages could exceed $250 million.

Fouts said while he couldn’t endorse or reject the proposal without more information, many questions remained. He also said Sadowski hadn’t discussed the proposal with him or any members of the administration before it was introduced at the meeting on Aug. 19.

“What’s it going to cover? Is it going to cover renters? Is it going to cover landlords? Is there a cap on the money?” Fouts said.  “If someone is turned down, will that person be allowed to appeal it in court? What if the amount of people (affected) is growing?”

Fouts said the plan would require another level of bureaucracy to implement and that the city wouldn’t be equipped to handle it.

He also questioned whether action by the city to provide loans from its own fund balance would limit any available help through the state or federal governments.

“There’s just a lot of questions that haven’t been answered,” Fouts said. “It certainly will cost more than $10 million.”

By voting to support Sadowski’s request, the council directed Warren City Attorney David Griem to explore the creation of guidelines and procedures for a low-interest loan program for Warren residents affected by the recent flooding.

Griem was expected to present information to council before the special meeting on Aug. 25.

Look for updates to this story at www.candgnews.com or follow the Warren Weekly on Facebook at www.facebook.com/warrenweekly.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.