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State offers $100,000 grants for emergency response to water crisis

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The state is offering Flint and Genesee County officials 100-thousand dollar grants, to help cover some of their emergency response costs from the water crisis.

But the Genesee County sheriff says that's not nearly enough.  

"Oh, heck no," says Sheriff Robert Pickell, who says he’s also the Homeland Security Emergency Manager for the county. “I mean, I understand that the Governor is trying to help. But that’s an unrealistic number, $100,000. I’ve already got 40 or $50,000 in dried food [costs.] And every day, the costs add up.”

The grants are available now that Governor Snyder has opened the state’s Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund to Flint, Genesee County, and neighboring towns to help cover ongoing costs from dealing with the crisis.

“The money can be applied toward costs associated with the response to a disaster or emergency, covering overtime for public employees, contracts, shelter supplies, gasoline and repair of public buildings and roads,” Snyder’s office said in statement Wednesday.

But Sheriff Pickell says the county’s response costs for dealing with the Flint water crisis are “outrageous:” they’ve spent nearly $1 million in personnel costs, he says, which he chalks up to overtime, water testing, and salaries.

Plus, he says even though the jail doesn’t have any lead service lines, he’s been giving 8 bottles of water each day to nearly 700 inmates in the county “to be safe.”

And the jail is now cooking only with dried food, Pickell says, since boiling water doesn’t remove lead.

“And that [dried food] costs the taxpayers another $8,000 to $10,000 a month more,” he says.

Pickell’s costs have raised some eyebrows, and any grant requests submitted to the state will have to be approved by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

 Ari Adler, a spokesperson for Governor Snyder, says state law requires those grants be $100,000 or 10% of the municipalities’ most recent budget –whichever is less. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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