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County opens discussions for disaster relief plan

A board of officials representing organizations and departments throughout Mitchell gathered Wednesday to discuss the creation of a new disaster relief plan for Davison County. (Jake Shama/Republic)

Mitchell officials are working to ensure Davison County continues to receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

John Clem, community development specialist from Planning & Development District III, based in Yankton, led a discussion Wednesday in the Davison County Courthouse to create a relief plan, which will ensure Davison County is eligible for all FEMA aid. It was the first of three meetings that will take place.

Although FEMA does not require the update, the national disaster relief organization requests all counties to update disaster relief plans every five years.

"Technically, the county doesn't have to do it," Clem said, "but if they don't, then they aren't eligible for certain types of FEMA funding."

Without this update, FEMA would continue to provide emergency services after a disaster such as a tornado or flood, but Davison County would lose access to FEMA's disaster mitigation funds, which can be used for development projects before a disaster takes place.

"Instead of being reactionary after a disaster happens, these funds are to do a project to make the situation better," Clem said.

Clem said the funds are often used to bury power lines. He said Central Electric has submitted requests for funding before to bury lines in rural areas of Davison County.

The plan will cost $10,000 to implement, the cheapest in the state, Clem said. However, this can be paid with people's time, so more people choosing to attend the planning sessions means the final bill will be lower. Clem said if attendance remains at Wednesday's level, the project should not cost anything.

Seventeen individuals, including Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey and Davison County Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke, attended the planning session, representing city, county and state government agencies as well as organizations like Avera Queen of Peace, Poet, Central Electric and the American Red Cross.

Wednesday's meeting centered around diagnosing the level of risk in the county. Clem asked questions about amenities in storm shelters, wildfire preparations, grain mill locations, schools, sirens, water regulations and past environmental issues, like droughts and storms.

Clem expects to draw up the plan before the end of the year. It will then be sent to Pierre for approval, and the county or individual cities will need to pass a resolution to adopt the plan. This could happen as soon as next summer, just before the county's current plan expires.

Future meetings will focus on potential problem areas in the county. The next meeting will take place at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 7 on the first floor of the courthouse. Members of the public are welcome to attend.