Chips ahoy

A truck, trailer and driver look tiny when compared to a huge pile of wood chips at the city of Barron municipal yard on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. The city has hired a crew to process thousands of branches and tree limbs that came down in the July 19 windstorm. A similar pile of chips is still waiting to be removed from an open field just west of Wayside Cemetery.                                                                                                               Photo by Bob Zientara

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential funding are at stake as local governments throughout Barron County try to document how much work has been done – and how much money has been spent – in the wake of the July 19, 2019, tornadoes and windstorm that struck the area.

Throughout last week, county workers assisted town and village officials with paperwork needed to qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

According to officials with the Barron County Clerk’s office, a temporary “storm damage nerve center” was set up Friday, Aug. 9, at the Barron County Justice Center.

Officials with the County Clerk’s Office and the Barron County Office of Emergency Services were on hand to help process the documents, or offer advice to townships and other municipal governments.

In order to complete the application, local governments had to document the specific roads and/or sites where damage had taken place, according to information from the Wisconsin Emergency Management office, part of the state Department of Military Affairs.

The forms included the kinds of damage, such as debris clearance, protective measures taken, damage to utilities, public buildings/equipment, parks, roads, culverts and bridges.

Each form had to include a description of the damage, including its dimensions, materials, the type of road service, whether roads needed to be closed, etc.

A second set of documents included information on how much money the local governments had spent in the three weeks since the storm, including hours worked, tons of debris that were removed, equipment, labor and materials used, and the rates charged by contractors.

The forms needed to be documented with invoices, load tickets and other financial estimates.

Copies of the documents were available for FEMA officials, who are scheduled to visit parts of Barron County today, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019.

In the meantime, the city of Barron continues its efforts to recover from the storm, according to Rick Jari, director of the city’s Water and Electric Utility.

On Monday, Aug. 12, Jari talked about storm recovery at the monthly meeting of the city Utility Commission.

In the wake of the storm, city officials were making an effort to decide where above-ground electrical wires could be buried in the future.

“Most of the time, we’ll look at back yards and hard-to-access locations first,” he said. “If trees have grown in, if we cannot get trucks into a location, that dictates burying rather than leaving (the wires) elevated.”

As city workers restored power over the July 19-21 weekend, there were occasions where repair trucks got stuck in wet ground, Jari added.

“On one occasion, we called in the (city-owned) Payloader to pull out one of the trucks – and then the Payloader got stuck and we had to pull it out with a road grader,” he said.

City utilities from Rice Lake and Cumberland brought in new power poles so Barron could replace the ones broken off in the storm. Bell Timber, of Barron, has also offered poles, he added.

The city utility helped visiting repair workers find motel rooms while they helped the Barron crews, and the Water and Electric Utility provided food and water for the workers, he added