With water rising, no wonder they're grasping at straws

Our View

October 13, 2011

At a time when governments at every level are desperate to find and save money wherever they can, it shouldn't surprise anyone that county officials might have reached a little in trying to score some federal disaster-relief money, or that the state agency charged with dispersing Maryland's share of it would say no.

Howard County lost its bid to recoup some expenses incurred when the Maryland Emergency Management Agency deemed ineligible some of the $1.7 million in expenses the county was claiming in connection with last month's Tropical Storm Lee. That ruling knocked Howard under the near $1 million minimum required to qualify for federal assistance, so it looks like the county will not be getting any help there.

Ryan Miller, deputy director of the county's Office of Emergency Management, says his office is revising its accounting of the hit Lee dealt the county's budget and will appeal the MEMA denial. Given that county officials probably threw everything they could think of into their original list, however, it's hard to imagine a different outcome.

The report the county gave to the state included damages to storm-water systems, management ponds, roads and bridges and other structures such as the large retaining wall that collapsed in historic Ellicott City. It also included the overtime paid to emergency personnel and landfill fees it waived for affected homeowners disposing of wreckage, Miller said.

Miller said he did not have any specific examples of newly identified damages, but said he is confident county officials will find them.

While the county is turning over the couch cushions, though, so are state and federal officials. Especially since the county already tried to claim items that didn't pass muster, you can bet its supplemental report will get a good going over.

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