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Our View: Dayton not shortchanging Duluth after all

No, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton couldn't have authorized about half a million dollars more for Duluth and St. Louis County to help with cleanup and repairs after a windstorm Oct. 27 thrashed our Lake Superior shoreline, causing an originally estimated $3.5 million in damage.

A News Tribune editorial this week (Our View: "Let the cleanup commence," Dec. 4) made the inaccurate claim after Dayton authorized $2.12 million in state disaster aid. By law, up to 75 percent of damages can be covered with such aid, and the $2.12 million announced by the state was only about 61 percent of the $3.5 million estimate. About $500,000 more would have been needed to equal the 75 percent.

But the $3.5 million damage estimate was only preliminary and shouldn't have been used to determine the level of relief that eventually will reach Duluth and St. Louis County, Joe Kelly, the director of homeland security and emergency management for the state of Minnesota, explained in a phone call to the News Tribune Opinion page on Tuesday.

That $3.5 million estimate, he said, was determined by the city and county. While it was the damage figure made public, it came before the state sent civil engineers, project managers, and others to the Northland to assess independently.

Dayton's order was for the maximum-allowed-by-law 75 percent of whatever the final damage estimate proves to be, Kelly said. It's still being determined.

The bigger number released originally "was to give people a feeling of the magnitude of the event," he said.

The final damage estimate "will be very precise." And the state disaster aid "will be 75 percent" of that estimate, Kelly promised. "The bottom line is Duluth (and) St. Louis County will get reimbursed 75 percent of their eligible damage costs."

While the assertion, since removed online, that Dayton didn't offer as much disaster aid as he could have was but a small part of the editorial, the News Tribune regrets all errors and strives to make them correct.

We also regret that this error, honestly made, may have detracted from the editorial's larger point, which was that the state disaster aid can be appreciated for how it allows Duluth and St. Louis County to get on with cleanup, with making repairs, and with getting past this destructive natural disaster.