Henry County reeling from weather costs

Officials hope for federal financial help

HENRY COUNTY, Ind. - The prolonged snow and extreme temperatures have taken a huge toll on Indiana counties just trying to keep the streets and highways clean.

Officials in Henry County are hoping Uncle Sam will help them cover the costs. Leaders said their fight against the weather has been relentless and expensive.

Workers with the Henry County Highway Department have only had two days off since December.

"The salt and sand mixture doesn't work well at temps below 15 to 16 degrees. We're struggling with the salt and sand beds being frozen with material in them. But we have been addressing slick spots as they come," Joe Wiley said.

Nineteen trucks and 22 workers have been taking on the challenge of the snow and the cold. 

The county has already spent over $100,000 on salt, sand, fuel and overtime. That's normally what would be spent over the entire winter season.

The property tax caps have had a drastic impact on the county's financial resources to handle such issues.

"We've gone from a budget of $24 million in 2008 to $14 million now. That means a storm like this has a disproportionate impact on our county, over what it would have in 2008," Henry County Commissioner Ed Yanos said.

Because of hardships placed on counties across Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence, in coordination with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, is attempting to obtain a presidential declaration. 

If approved, the program would provide money to help counties make up for their losses. Henry County would ask for $300,000.

"We would like that, but the way the public-assistance program works is 75 percent of the funds will be returned if the declaration goes through, 25 percent is still going be a local match or local cost and 75 percent through the feds," Ronald Huffman with the Henry County Emergency Management Agency said.

All 92 counties in Indiana will submit paperwork on their costs. It is unclear how long it will take for a presidential ruling.

Follow Derrik Thomas on Twitter: @derrikthomas

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