Flood recovery czar begins 'big race' against winter

9:41 PM, Sep 20, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - It seems a little odd for a guy like Jerre Stead to sport a badge from the governor's office that's labeled "temporary."

"I don't think I was ever a temp," jokes Stead, who was recently tapped by the Hickenlooper administration to act as Colorado's flood recovery czar.

Stead has bigger things to worry about than titles. His official title is chief recovery officer, by the way.

He's more worried about "getting our arms around things. There's areas that as you know are still under water," Stead said.

That's the challenge to assessing the damage caused by the 2013 flood, though the governor's office says the state has managed to assess roughly 75 percent of the damaged infrastructure so far.

Repairs are already underway on some of the most critical roadways, thanks to emergency contracts already executed by transportation officials.

No one knows what the final price tag will be to fix all the damage, but everyone knows it will be huge.

Gov. John Hickenlooper hasn't minced words about that as he's met with people in flood zones.

"If you look at the loss of private property, even adjusted for inflation, this is probably going to go down as the worst flood worst disaster in the history of the state," Hickenlooper said.

Ultimately, the federal government is going to pick up a lot of the cost of rebuilding public infrastructure.

The federal government will pick up the first 75 cents.

The governor's office plans to have the state split the remaining quarter with the local governments.

The state and local match to federal dollars doesn't have to be made in hard cash.

It can be made as a "soft match."

For example, a local government could write off the cost of police and fire department overtime during the disaster as part of its share of the cost.

Money aside, everyone involved knows it probably isn't possible to finish everything before winter.

"Estes Park already had snow a bit yesterday," Stead said. "We're in a big race and that's the priorities we're in the process of setting."

Stead expects the state to target the most critical infrastructure first: major highways and water systems.

It won't happen overnight, but he says, it will happen.

Meantime, Colorado's Congressional delegation is working to secure federal funding to help Colorado.

The federal government can't spend more than $100 million to help rebuild roads in Colorado without the blessing of Congress.

Sources in Colorado's delegation told 9NEWS they hope to secure that authorization in the continuing resolution for the federal budget.

That could throw a wrench in the gears if budget negotiations fail and the federal government shuts down.

In that scenario, Colorado can likely cover costs thanks to a $1.1 billion budget surplus, and seek federal reimbursement later.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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