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County establishes emergency fund

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Emergencies like the June 2010 tornado that struck Almora in southeastern Otter Tail County require financial resources, in addition to manpower. To that end, the county board of commissioners on June 26 approved establishment of an emergency reserve fund of up to $1 million, over the next two years.

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The reserve fund currently has $250,000. The fund will be referred to as the Rapid Response Emergency Fund.

County Emergency Services Director Patrick Waletzko told county board members that future funding would be provided by an emergency management tax. Funds will not be levied in excess of $500,000 per year.

"Loan funds will be repaid, with interest, in two years' time," said Waletzko.

The emergency funds will be used for government projects in the aftermath of events such as severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, fires, chemical spills and other catastrophes.

"We have this funding program in place in order to provide immediate action on the part of governmental units in Otter Tail County. This will alleviate significant injury to people and/or damage to property and the environment," said Waletzko. "Immediate action is required and we in county government are here to help."

County commissioners emphasized that county government, during emergency responses, does not serve as a bank. Rather, they said the county would serve as a source of emergency funds.

"We in county government will be here in safety valve situations," said Commissioner Doug Huebsch.

County emergency management, said Waletzko, refers to the preparation for and the carrying out of emergency functions, other than functions for which military forces are called into action.

"We in county government will be available to work in coordination with firefighting units, police, medical and health services, rescue, engineering, warning services, communications, transportation and in other capacities," he said. "Civilian protection is the main priority as we work together in carrying out various functions during an emergency."

Project applications will be reviewed by members of the Otter Tail County Budget Committee and County Emergency Manager. A recommendation from this group will be made to the County Board of Commissioners.

Waletzko and County Auditor Wayne Stein will periodically report to the county board about the use of funds and repayment progress.

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