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County emergency services funds will provide revolving loans

Otter Tail County Commissioners were informed last week of the newly established Rapid Response Emergency Fund that will provide revolving loans to communities in crisis.

The loans are to be repaid with interest within two years following an emergency, and no more than $200,000 will be allocated to a single request.

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

The five-person county board had unanimously agreed to the new emergency fund two weeks earlier, noting events like the June 2010 tornado that struck Almora in southeastern Otter Tail County. The board approved establishment of an emergency reserve fund of up to $1 million, over the next two years. The reserve fund currently has $250,000.

"All future funding will be provided by an emergency management tax," said County Emergency Services Director Patrick Waletzko. "Funds will not be levied in excess of $500,000 per year."

At the June 10 county board meeting, Waletzko distributed copies of an emergency revolving loan fund application. Applicants, before receiving funds, must describe how an individual project meets the requirements and authorized uses of the loan fund policy.

A project budget summary is required, consisting of construction, operating and administrative costs. Applicants also will be required to describe what efforts municipalities and other entities made to secure other forms of emergency funding assistance.

"We have this funding program in place in order to provide immediate action on the part of governmental units in Otter Tail County," said Waletzko. "Immediate action is required and we in county government are here to help."

County commissioners have reiterated 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.

Members of the Otter Tail County Budget Committee and the County emergency manager will review project applications. 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.