FEMA meets with Portage County officials

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) met with Portage County officials Wednesday to assess the damage left behind by July's severe storms, and the costs it is taking to clean it up.

The closed-door meeting took place in a conference room at the Portage County Annex building in Stevens Point. While media was not allowed inside the actual meeting at the request of county officials, we were able to speak with Troy Christensen, a media relations specialist for FEMA, who was willing to detail the process.

"This is our first chance to look at some of the damage, from the FEMA perspective, that occurred from those storms back in July," said Christensen. "From the day that those storms hit, the local communities and the local counties have been doing a ton of work, not only to clean up, but to document what costs they had incurred because of the storms."

Christensen says the damage assessments that FEMA is conducting throughout the state, which includes 18 counties and two tribal areas, are an early but important step in the process to receive federal funding.

"By the end of the week, our goal is to really have a good idea of the total damage from these storms back in July to the state of Wisconsin, and hopefully we can add that up and give that information back to Wisconsin Emergency Management," added Christensen. "Then, the governor can make the decision whether or not to request a Presidential Disaster Declaration."

If Governor Tony Evers should decide to send a formal letter to President Donald Trump and the president were to grant that request, the public assistance program would then potentially be available to help offset costs for municipalities that have racked up a lot while dealing with storm cleanup efforts.

Christensen said over the past few days, they've come across several small communities that have spent nearly $100,000 in some cases more, for storm clean up.

"We understand that a lot of small communities really cannot bare that financial burden," said Christensen. "We not only look at the total dollar figure at the end of the week when considering disaster assistance, but we also look at the overall impact to the communities here across the state of Wisconsin, and we really take that into account as we go forward."

The Portage County results are expected to be made available soon. The next stop for FEMA will be in Wood County.