By Tim Leeds 

First meetings set for county disaster plans


Hill and Blaine counties are conducting a required update on a planning process that has helped in dealing with disasters in the last two years.

Hill County has set Tuesday, Dec. 7, as the date for a kickoff meeting in updating its disaster mitigation plan. Blaine County's initial meeting is set for the next day.

Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties are sharing a $70,000 grant to pay for updating each county's plan, with a 25 percent match required. Parenteau said that the county shares — $5,833,34 — can likely be paid through in-kind services. That can include credit for the number of people signing in at the public meetings held on the plans.

A representative of TetraTech Inc., the company hired to update the plans, will conduct next week's meetings.

The predisaster mitigation plans show the local government's research and planning into what areas are likely to be impacted in a disaster and what steps can be taken to prevent the damage.

Keeping an updated plan is a requirement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, lack of which could have affected operations assessing and recovering from flooding in the last two years that have led to presidential disaster declarations.

"It's a requirement, like having a good credit rating before getting a loan; check this box before proceeding …, " Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning. "If we don't have it, we're not fully compliant with FEMA and (The U. S. Department of) Homeland Security. "

Parenteau said that, aside from making the county ineligible for some assistance, not having the updated plan could slow down the process of assessing damage and receiving money to help recover from disasters.

Haley Gustitis, DES coordinator for Blaine County, said having the plan in place also helped in dealing with this year's flood disaster and planning to mitigate future damage.

"This definitely helps, having this in place and (not having) to start from scratch, " she said.

And that could have a significant impact. Parenteau said that, so far, FEMA has awarded Hill County more than $200,000 in public assistance, with more than $150,000 of that received, to repair damage from this year's flooding. The local match has been nearly $6,000 from the state and just over $44,000 for the county, with the county's share likely to be fully made up by in-kind services.

Hill County residents received more than $146,000 in individual assistance for damage to private property and other problems arising from the flooding.

Several of the public projects also qualified for mitigation funding, to prevent damage in future disasters. Parenteau said one, for example, qualified for $18,000 to add stabilizing walls on some culverts, add extra gravel and put rip-rap on the road in the project to reduce damage from future floods.

The federal government has found that each dollar spent on mitigation has a four-times return in reduced future damage, Parenteau added.

The meetings next week will be the first in a series of meetings for the planning for each county. Parenteau said the process will be laid out for the people attending, and also help with information about what is covered in predisaster mitigation planning and what needs to be done to plan for disasters.

He said upgrading the plan will re-examine hazards that exist in the county, what has happened in recent events, what threats to existing structures and infrastructure exist, and vulnerabilities of people in the county. Residents participating in the upgrade will help make sure it is accurate and relevant throughout the county, he said.

Future meetings will be set up throughout the county, with information about those meetings at the events next week.

TetraTech has set up a website with more information about the process of upgrading the plans for each of the counties. The site, located at, will be updated as the process proceeds.

Hill County's meeting is set to start at 3:30 p. m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, west of Havre in the Hill County Electric Hospitality Room at 2121 U. S. Highway 2 West, with the Blaine County meeting set for 10 a. m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Emergency Operations Center Room on the second floor of the Blaine County Courthouse at 420 Ohio St. in Chinook.


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