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Speed of repairs hinges on flow of gov money

7:31 PM, Sep 25, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - It's going to cost a lot for cities and counties in Colorado to rebuild what they had before this month's floods.

Local governments do expect to get money from the state and federal government to help, but the speed of rebuilding may depend on how quickly that money gets here.

Not counting state highways, Boulder County thinks its share of rebuilding roads and Bridges is going to top $100 million-- more money Boulder County would normally spend in a year on fixing its roads, and more than it has in savings right now.

"We planned for a rainy day, not a rainy week," said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, "where we got an entire year's worth of precipitation in five days."

The county froze spending on all regular road projects to pay for fixing flood damage first.

With public disaster assistance, FEMA is going to pick up 75 percent of the cost of repairing broken infrastructure.

The remaining quarter is going to be split between the state and local government, Gov. John Hickenlooper's office says.

However, the local governments worry they'll have to front the entire cost first, and then wait to be reimbursed.

Some don't have the cash to do that, which makes it possible that cash flow issues could delay some repairs.

"It's a certainly a possibility. We're working as hard as we can to make sure that's not the case," said Jones.

RECENT COLORADO FLOODING STORIES

Counties have some reserve money in their general funds, but say state law prohibits them from using that money on road projects.

"I think that law makes sense in normal construction and maintenance needs to be fair to cities and counties," said Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson. "But it doesn't make sense in a disaster situation with unprecedented immediate needs."

The governor's office told local officials it's looking for a legal way around that issue.

Whether it takes budget gymnastics or a change to state law, Johnson says it needs to get done for the people in counties like his.

"I'd rather build the roads and get their needs met and maybe beg for forgiveness later if I have to," said Johnson.

Jones is lobbying for another idea.

"We're talking with the state about whether or not they could serve as a bank perhaps for counties like mine," said Jones. "But also some of the smaller towns like Jamestown and Lyons who have very, very small budgets to work with."

The state could be in a better financial position to front repair costs and wait for a check from FEMA, but CDOT officials have not yet determined whether that idea can move forward.

Cash flow is just one of many obstacles.

There's a lot of damage out there and only so many construction crews to go around.

There are already signs of winter in the mountains to the West, a reminder there will only be time for temporary fixes in a lot of places.

Some permanent repairs will have to wait until next year.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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