As flood season nears, followed closely by wildfire season, Lewis and Clark County reminds residents it is never too early to prepare. A great place to start is to attend the Family and Emergency Preparedness Fair scheduled for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 2 at Rossiter Elementary School, 1497 Sierra Road. This event is free, family friendly, and will include a number of activities designed to help residents prepare for impacts of flooding and other natural disasters.
The County also stresses the importance of personal preparedness and protection of personal property. One way to do this is to ensure residents have sandbags and sand on-hand before flooding begins. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to buy, fill and transport sandbags. It is also the responsibility of property owners to protect their multi-family and rental properties. Most home improvement and hardware stores, as well as online stores, sell sandbags, and commercial gravel pits are a great source for purchasing sand.
The County will no longer provide sandbags or sand to private citizens. The County’s first responsibility is to protect critical public infrastructure like roads, bridges and schools that belong to all taxpayers. The County has previously provided sandbags and sand as a goodwill gesture to residents for protecting their private property. Continuing this practice, however, would be unfair to the other taxpayers of our County because these costs were not eligible to be recovered through the state or federal government.
The County was forced to issue an Emergency Declaration in response to the flooding throughout the County last year that raised nearly $130,000 in taxes. For qualifying damages caused by flooding, the State or FEMA reimbursed a portion of the flooding costs in the Helena Valley. The State has informed Lewis and Clark County that sand and sandbags used to protect private property are not qualifying costs that the County may recoup. For this reason, the County will no longer provide sand or sandbags to the public.
We fully understand there are people in our community, such as the disabled and elderly, who are unable to do all that may be necessary to protect themselves and their property. This is where the Elkhorn Community Organizations Active in Disaster can lend assistance. The COAD is comprised of a variety of community assistance organizations that can help people in need. The COAD can provide donations management services (including sandbag donations), labor, food, drinking water, and other services as resources allow. They are a valuable resource for not only Lewis and Clark County, but also Jefferson and Broadwater Counties and all our residents.
We can all make a difference when it comes to helping our communities. By taking individual preparedness measures, checking on your neighbors, developing community plans and working together, we can all survive and thrive as a community through difficult times.
Lewis and Clark County Commission Chair Jim McCormick, Vice-Chair Susan Good Geise, and Commissioner Andy Hunthausen