Local Government

Cedar Rapids 2016 flood costs close in on $7 million, with total still a moving target

FEMA said no to keeping earthen berms in place

The Gazette

The Cedar River is shown at major flood stage Sept. 27, held back by rows of sand-filled HESCO barriers on the east bank of the river in downtown Cedar Rapids. The city has paid some $7 million in flood-related bills, with the largest bill — $1.34 million — coming from the University of Iowa, which provided some of the badly needed HESCO barriers. The city is hoping most of the expenses will be reimbursed by its flood insurance and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Gazette The Cedar River is shown at major flood stage Sept. 27, held back by rows of sand-filled HESCO barriers on the east bank of the river in downtown Cedar Rapids. The city has paid some $7 million in flood-related bills, with the largest bill — $1.34 million — coming from the University of Iowa, which provided some of the badly needed HESCO barriers. The city is hoping most of the expenses will be reimbursed by its flood insurance and by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Six months after the 2016 flood, Cedar Rapids continues to pay bills and incur new ones tied to the flood.

Through April 7, Cedar Rapids had paid $6.3 million on 950-plus invoices from 170-plus vendors.

It paid $640,223 in overtime to employees, according to city records.

“I don’t think people understand the magnitude of how many people were involved in building the flood protection walls that saved us,” said Kris Gulick, a Cedar Rapids City Council member who chairs the city finance committee.

Max Freund / The Gazette

The city estimated it would spend more than $10 million on sand walls, earth berms and other flood protection measures plus cleanup and repairs stemming from the Cedar River cresting at nearly 21.95 feet on Sept. 27.

That was the second highest flood event on record in Cedar Rapids, and the river spent five days above major flood stage.

Gulick said it will be a while before the city closes out the finances on the 2016 flood.

Large and Small

Expenses run the gamut from labor, services and large ticket items — such as HESCO barriers, sand and heavy machinery — to small costs such as gaskets, clamps and duct tape — according to a spreadsheet of paid invoices provided by the city.

Max Freund / The Gazette

The spreadsheets showed:

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- $1.34 million to the University of Iowa for HESCO barriers, paid Oct. 12, as the single biggest payment.

- 60 invoices from Menards in Cedar Rapids, the most from any vendor.

- Invoices for a variety of items, including life vests, cellphone chargers, chest waders, flashlights, lodging, a three-speed air mover, boxed lunches, coffee, horse fence and a dog crate,

Reimbursement Slow

City officials hope much of the flood expense will be reimbursed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its own insurance. But reimbursement is slow coming.

Thus far, Cedar Rapids has received $246,550 in federal reimbursement tied to 12 project work sheets worth $1.199 million. The work sheets detail and justify expenses.

The city has received $282,343 in reimbursement from insurance.

The city doesn’t yet have a full accounting of flood-related costs, how much will be reimbursed and when it will come.

Part of the reason figures remain a moving target is because costs continue to accumulate.

Max Freund / The Gazette

FEMA: no to berms

Just last week, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved a $500,000 budget to remove 1.2 miles of dirt berms from six locations, with the largest segment on the Cedar River Trail in Czech Village.

City officials were rebuffed when they asked to leave the berms intact as a guard against future flooding, said city engineer Nate Kampman. FEMA considers the berm debris that and must be removed within six months for the city to get reimbursed for the costs — materials, labor, equipment — tied to the erecting and removal of berms, Kampman said.

“It’s just the FEMA rules,” he said.

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Kampman said it’s not yet determined how much reimbursement is tied to the berms. The removal work should begin in May and be finished by the beginning of July, with grass reseeding in September, he said. The city is going to file for an extension of the six-month window due to winter weather, he said.

Lots of Hoses

Custom Hose and Supply, 805 66th Ave. SW, had 33 invoices paid by the city, which was among the most of any vendor. The total of $23,147 covered items during the two weeks surrounding the flood, with another six transactions on March 21. The purchases included an array of hoses, hose adapters, valves and camlock fittings.

Jim Archibald, operations manager of Custom Hose, said the city is a regular customer, and Custom Hose often doesn’t know exactly what their products are used for, such as the purchases last month.

The flurry of business last September and October was tied to the flood, but it wasn’t just from the city, he said. Various vendors helping with flood protection, particularly those handling water pumps, also came calling.

“They’d call up and say, ‘We need hoses, and we need it now,’” Archibald said. “They needed anything that would go on to the pump. People were coming out of the woodwork. Every pump has a different coupling on it, and that’s the thing we are good at.”

Archibald said he is not surprised to see the costs and projects tied to the flood continue several months after the flooding.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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