Jackson's ice storm tab estimated at $1.2 million

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The effects of ice in Jackson are far worse than the 2003 tornado. Five times worse, according to city administrator Jim Roach.

Though details are still be worked out, the current estimate for damages from the Feb. 11 and 12 ice storm is $1.2 million. Trees, electric wires and more than 50 poles buckled and snapped under the weight of up to an inch of ice.

"We've applied for some reimbursement from FEMA," Roach said in a phone interview Friday.

If and until aid arrives from state or federal emergency management agencies, bills will be paid from city coffers, he said.

While poles and wires were damaged in the 2003 tornado, the brunt of destruction was wrought on buildings, which had insurance.

"Poles and wires are pretty much uninsurable," he said.

On Thursday, Mayor Barbara Lohr and fire chief Jason Mouser toured the city with FEMA and SEMA officials. Roach said they handed off reports and estimates; now the city must wait for a decision.

In the meantime, as bills come in, they will be paid from the city's electric surplus fund. Jackson does not have a specific emergency fund, unlike the city of Cape Girardeau, which is required to set aside money.

Jackson's electric surplus fund has a $6 million balance.

"We try to maintain that," Roach said. "But you can see, one hit on the electric system or power plant can wipe it out."

Larry Koenig, Jackson's assistant city administrator, said $3.5 million is "dedicated to nothing but the operation of the system and payment of debt."

Koenig said the money could be used for other city emergencies.

"It's a good thing we have some extra to cover $1.2 million of damage," he said. How the money gets paid back is another matter.

"This balance is what has been generated over the years, some as the result, last year, of not spending as much as we did [in the past]," Koenig said. "You don't generate $5 million a year."

After the 2003 tornado, the city was reimbursed by state and federal aid for 80 percent of its recovery costs.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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