Kent County commissioners extended the state-of-emergency status for the entire county for another 30 days on Thursday. Unless otherwise notified, emergency conditions, due to the flooding of the Grand River, will exist through May 24.
Kent County Commission Chairman Dan Koorndyk declared a state of emergency on April 19, but his declaration would have expired after seven days if the full board hadn’t taken action. The Kent County Sherriff’s Department and the county’s Emergency Management Division recommended that the board extend the emergency designation.
Lengthening the declaration could push the state government into requesting financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for recovery efforts. State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, told the Business Journal that he will look into getting some state funds to help cover the costs, which are expected to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We saw historic flooding,” said Lt. Jack Stewart, the county’s emergency management coordinator to county commissioners Thursday.
“If the governor issues our request, that will open the door to FEMA,” he added. “Right now, the water is receding from a foot to a foot-and-a-half every day.”
The Grand River was expected to dip below flood stage on Thursday.
Stewart said about 150 residents have been allowed to return to their homes after being evacuated last weekend.
Stewart also said the county’s Equalization Bureau is assessing the property damage. “We won’t have a more accurate assessment until the water recedes,” he said. “The next step is the damage-assessment piece.”
County Equalization Director Matt Woolford told the Business Journal that he and his staff are turning in their property-damage reports to the Emergency Management Division, which has taken hundreds of airborne photos of the flooding.
“We have about 500 photos and we gave them to the Bureau of Equalization,” said Stewart.
Woolford and his staff have recruited personnel from cities and townships to assist with the damage assessment. “Matt and his team have been training the local assessors,” said Stewart, who added that county-owned properties are in good shape, as is the Cascade Dam. It could be several weeks before an estimate of the damage is determined.
Stewart said the county had a medical emergency rescue in Plainfield Township and about six other boat rescues of individuals who got too close to the river. “People should stay away from the river,” he said.
As of Wednesday, 39 road closings were still in effect throughout the county along such streets as West River Drive and Reeds Lake Boulevard. “Several motorists have driven into areas of barricades,” said Stewart.
“On four occasions, the vehicles did not make it through the water over the roadway and required first responders to come their aid. If a law enforcement officer or deputy witnesses someone driving around a barricade, the driver will be issued a ticket,” said Stewart.
Stewart also pointed out that the coordination between service groups like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army has been great. “It’s been a total team effort,” he said. “We’ll keep you advised, especially when the damage estimate comes in.”