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Small public roads may not get FEMA repair funding

5:41 PM, Dec 16, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - Most of the cost of repairing roads damaged in this year's floods is covered by FEMA.

The agency generally pays 75 percent of the bill, but three months after the flooding, counties are learning that FEMA will not pay any money for some neighborhood roads, even though they are public property.

That's because many small public roads in Boulder and Larimer counties are maintained by private neighborhood associations.

As winter rolls in, the Big Thompson River is back down to a trickle, bearing little resemblance to the monster that cut off a small neighbourhood, just downhill from Estes Park on Highway 34.

"This is Waltonia," said Barbara Fuller. "Yup, we're considered Drake by the post office, that we used to have."

The post office was destroyed along with several homes in Drake.

We found Barbara and Dan Fuller walking their dogs down Waltonia Road, the main artery of the neighborhood, most of it carved away.

"There's a lot of people who have cars up there still who aren't able to get them out," Fuller said.

That includes the neighborhood's snowplow, which is run by volunteers.

Because the association maintains it, FEMA treats Waltonia Road as a glorified driveway, a private road.

Despite the fact that it is owned by the county,FEMA won't pay to repair it.

"I just don't know how we're going to come up with the $200,000 or whatever it's going to take to fix the road," Fuller said.

It's not just this one cut off neighborhood. Larimer county says it has eleven miles of public roads in this same situation, that it doesn't know how it's going to pay to fix.

"I think that's been FEMA's issue is that they don't really understand how roads, road dedication and maintenance is handled out here in the West," said Larmier County Commissioner Tom Donnelly. "They're used to the East coast."

Larimer County commissioners says they've joined with Boulder County officials to lobby Colorado's congressional delegation to appeal FEMA's decision.

Whatever happens, Larimer County officials say they won't make neighborhoods foot the bill for county-owned roads.

"Regardless of what reimbursement we get, we still have that responsibility to rebuild those roads for citizens and we're going to do that," said county commission chairman Steve Johnson.

If the money doesn't come from FEMA, it will have to come from someplace else, most likely community development block grants administered by HUD.

Repairs on this class of the county's roads will cost an estimated $4 million, which means $4 million of block grants that can't be used for other flood recovery items on the county's wish list, things like fixing private roads, buying out heavily damaged properties, and removing debris.

Waltonia also has private roads that need to be repaired. The HUD block grants are a rare source of government funds that could be used for that purpose, due to the legal flexibility over how the grants can be used.

"The sooner they get this road back together the better," Fuller said.

The Fullers now know firsthand why people call roads "arteries."

Without its road, Waltonia won't come back to life.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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