Portland's reconsideration request for emergency funding denied by Governor, MSP

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PORTLAND, MI -- The City of Portland's request for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to reconsider issuing emergency funding was denied.

The city posted on its Facebook page Tuesday afternoon that the Governor's Office and Michigan State Police denied the request.

The post signed by the City Manager of the City of Portland, Tutt Gorman said, '...Late last week, the Governor’s Office indicated that the Request would be denied and that the County/City would be notified by MSP shortly, acting upon recommendation of MSP...'

Governor Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Portland back in February because of ice jams and extreme flooding. The city asked for $100,000 in emergency funding. But in September, the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division of the Michigan State Police recommended that the city didn't meet the criteria for financial assistance.

The city sent a letter to Governor Whitmer with the reconsideration request in mid-August. In their letter, the city said that MSP failed to properly apply the statutory criteria for assistance eligibility.

Gorman said that the city sustained significant damage to public infrastructures, such as the electric utility, river trail system, and the wastewater treatment plant which operated beyond its capacity.

The Facebook post from the City of Portland also said that local taxpayers will not absorb the cost and instead, the city's disaster contingency fund would.

Dale George, a public information officer for MSP, said that McGowan and other Michigan State Police staff have scheduled a meeting with Gorman early next month to discuss the decision further.

Ionia County

Ionia County was also denied supplemental funding from the disaster and emergency contingency fund in July. The Ionia County Board of Commissioners Chair, David Hodges, also sent a letter in August asking for reconsideration.

On October 18, Captain Emmitt McGowan, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security sent a response letter to Hodges to further elaborate on why their request was denied.

In the letter, Hodges said that '...neither of the three jurisdictions (Ionia County, the City of Belding, and the City of Portland) exhausted or nearly exhausted their resources while responding to or recovering from this incident. The jurisdictions did not request resources or identify
unmet needs after the flood waters receded. Having completed this review, the State concluded that supplemental funding under Section 19 of Act 390 is not warranted as the local commitment did not place unreasonably great demands upon the county or affected local
jurisdictions.

'...The determination of whether a local jurisdiction has exhausted local efforts requires a consideration of each local jurisdiction, independent of
the county, and does not assume that a local jurisdiction can invoice the county for emergency response expenses...'

Read the City of Portland's full Facebook post below:

Reconsideration Request - Denied:

The City of Portland was notified that the Governor’s Office and MSP denied the request for reconsideration of Section 19 emergency funding (see Denial Letter and City Manager Memo below). At last night’s meeting, City Council expressed their frustration with the process and disappointment with the decision. Based upon a legal review, the letter offers very little and only raises new concerns.

The City has made repeated efforts to engage and have good-faith discussions with MSP and the Governor’s Office throughout this process, but were only able to speak with the point person for each Office. Attempting to identify and have discussions with the person or persons making these decisions has been equally as frustrating. MSP has repeatedly stated that these decisions rest with the Governor’s Office, although they may provide a recommendation. MSP confirmed that the “Request for Reconsideration” was at the Governor’s Office as of August 28, 2019, but the City was unable to ascertain if a recommendation was actually made or if the matter was deferred to the Governor’s Office entirely. The City requested a copy of the recommendation from MSP, but it was not provided. Late last week, the Governor’s Office indicated that the Request would be denied and that the County/City would be notified by MSP shortly, acting upon recommendation of MSP. The City and County have little more insight than what was provided in the initial and subsequent denial letters.

While the City will move on from this event, local taxpayers should not be required to absorb that cost when the disaster contingency fund was created for this very purpose. Moreover, while 100-165k may not seem significant on a federal level when your dealing with millions of dollars in damages, it’s important to note that this is a state declaration and the City is only entitled up to 250k under the statute. At Council’s direction, the City will continue to work with the Michigan Municipal League, State Legislators and MSP to bring clarification and understanding to this process.

If residents have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. (517)-647-2931

-City Manager Gorman