Weld County C ommissioners Doug Rademacher and Sean Conway watched as employees of Douglas County on Thursday repaired a bridge in southwest Weld County blown out over the Big Thompson River during the floods.
Douglas County was returning a favor, the commissioners explained.
Last year, Weld County offered assistance to Douglas County after an onslaught of summer wildfires. Conway said they got a call from Douglas County commissioners on the Saturday the floods hit areas of Weld, asking how they could help.
Douglas County sent nine employees and equipment to Weld, and it’s made even more of a difference because it frees up Weld’s public works employees to finish their assessments of road damage, Conway said.
He said Weld has been overwhelmed with calls from commissioners across the state asking how they could help, including from Alamosa, Pitkin and Baca counties.
“There’s kind of a fraternity among county commissioners,” Conway said. “You don’t get the partisanship that you do with other legislative bodies.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation on Thursday also announced an additional $65.5 million available for flood recovery through an executive order from the governor’s office, bringing the total to $91.5 million. The total cost of permanent repairs on Colorado’s highways is now estimated at $475 million, according to a news release.
U.S. 34 between Greeley and Kersey is expected to reopen late this month or in early October, and the U.S. 34 business route east of Greeley up to Weld County Road 49 is expected to reopen in early- to mid-October.
The order also authorizes the state to allocate up to $20 million for short-term, no interest loans to local governments in need of capital for emergency repairs.
At the county’s last briefing, Weld reported emergency repairs on 14 of 75 damaged roads and nine of 25 bridges, and reopened another four roads, bringing the number of closed roads down to 38.
If the weather holds out this weekend, Conway said he hopes to see East 18th Street — a major thoroughfare between Greeley and Kersey — reopened as well.
Rademacher said crews are in their final stages of damage assessment, and next comes prioritizing. He said he doesn’t expect to see any money from FEMA for several years, which is part of the reason commissioners hired a consultant to help them navigate the many rules and requirements for FEMA reimbursement.
The company, called Base Tactical, has a 90-day budget with Weld County with a limit of $354,000, said Monica Daniels-Mika, director of Weld County Finance and Administration.
The final cost will vary based on which experts they consult, she said, but the county can also be reimbursed for the money it spends on “reasonable” consultations, which frees up staff to get back to providing day-to-day services.
“We want to make sure that the actions that we are taking now will be fully reimbursable by FEMA later,” Daniels-Mika said. For example, she said to get reimbursed for removing debris, the county needs to take photos and track the number of tons removed.
Conway said Weld County is likely in a better position to handle this disaster because it has no debt and a $100 million contingency fund.
He said it has allowed the county to immediately do emergency repairs on some major corridors.
Rademacher and Conway on Thursday thanked Steve Dalke, a district supervisor for Douglas County’s Department of Public Works.
“These guys have rocked,” Conway said of the crews working on the bridge.
Dalke said it was no problem helping Weld County. Douglas County got about 4 inches of rain in the storm and just a few washouts.
“One day, we may be calling you,” he said.