Wisconsin Gov. Walker gets look at SuperiorScott Walker declared a state of emergency after the city suffered wide flood damage last week.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Wisconsin’s governor declared a state of emergency for Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties after flooding last week.
Gov. Scott Walker was in Superior on Tuesday to tour flood-damaged homes in the Central Park area and visit the Salvation Army, which was bustling with activity to feed people despite flood damage of its own in the basement.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, joined the early part of the tour before heading back to Washington to deal with congressional business.
“We appreciate the opportunity to get an update first-hand,” Walker said Tuesday.
The governor said while his own family has had experience with water damage in his family’s home, it did not compare to what he saw Tuesday.
“I wanted to see the level of damage, but (also) see the impact,” Walker said after touring three flood-damaged homes in Central Park near Faxon Creek. “Some people have insurance, which is good.”
The governor encouraged people who have insurance to contact the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance if they believe they are not being treated fairly by their insurance company.
Walker also encouraged people to report whatever damage they sustained to city and county officials to determine what aid may be available.
“Homeowners and business owners, we need as much information as possible,” Walker said. “The more the city, counties and state get that information, the more options we have available.”
So far about 540 households and businesses have reported damage.
“We know there are some who are just not going to report the damage,” said Mayor Bruce Hagen. “They’re just going to handle it themselves.”
But reporting that damage could help city and county officials get state aid, which would alleviate the need to raise taxes to pay for infrastructure repairs following the storm. The emergency declaration made by the governor Tuesday does allow city and county officials to increase tax levies to cover the cost of repairs.
In northern Douglas County, at least 10 roads are in need of major repairs after culverts were washed away by rushing water. In Superior, several roads also are in need of repair, including North 28th Street, Woodlawn Drive and Marina Drive between the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and Barker’s Island.
And it could help local government officials determine whether to seek a presidential declaration to access federal aid if the damage throughout Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties reaches the Federal Emergency Management Agency threshold.
“We don’t want to over-promise,” Walker said. “We want to deliver our promises, but we need as much information as possible.”
Hagen said he wasn’t optimistic the areas affected by last week’s flooding in Wisconsin would reach the federal threshold.
“I’m going to do all that I can to make sure I’m gathering all the data, so if the resources are available, I’m going to fight to make sure we get them,” Duffy said. “That’s why it’s so important that everyone who had damage reports it.”
While the governor has faced criticism from some for not coming to Superior sooner, Walker said it was his experience as Milwaukee County executive that it would be better to wait to get a better handle on the damage left behind and stay out of the way of the emergency response at the time of the flooding.
“You got flood damage going on; you’ve got emergency personnel — the last thing you want is an entourage from the governor,” Walker said. “I just know having gone through it personally as a county executive, I wanted someone to assist me. I didn’t want someone to get in the way.”