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Benton County Deals with Damage

Flooding caused severe damage and forced the county to declare a disaster, but state funds will not be coming in any time soon.
BENTON COUNTY, AR -- Flooding caused severe damage and forced the county to declare a disaster, but state funds will not be coming in any time soon.

Most of the damage this time around was in the northeast part of the county, but crews are still working to fix issues across the southeast area. With work spread across the county and only so much manpower, crews cannot wait for state funds before they fix the problems, so the cost is on them.

"We always go out and make emergency repairs in order for people to get up and down the road and then we go back and do the permanent construction... That's just going to be delayed and we're not able to apply for reimbursement until everything is finished and it's all been inspected," said Benton County Judge Bob Clinard.

Temporary fixes are being washed away, forcing more funds to be spent before state money ever shows up.

"It doesn't make any difference really if we get reimbursed or if we don't, we still have to fix them... We spend the money out of our pocket long before we ever get reimbursed."

Judge Bob Clinard believes damage could total around $1-million.

"If that's the case, we would be reimbursed about $350,000."

In the mean time, crews still have to hit the roads and repair storm damage on the county's dime.

"When we think about our manpower and our budget for the year, you don't factor in disasters because you don't know if you're going to have one or in this case three."

And Mother Nature is putting projects across the county on hold, once again.

"It does really really hurt our production when we're doing this type of work instead of improving roads."

Judge Clinard said the first two disaster reimbursements might go through by the end of this year, but this third one probably will not be finished until 2014. In addition, rain is still in the forecast, so Clinard's crews will be working all weekend. They hope to be starting permanent repairs soon since the temporary fixes will not hold if there is another significant rainfall.

Clinard said the county may also have to outsource some of the paving it was planning to accomplish this year just because everyone has been taken off regular projects to handle road repairs.

In addition to dealing with storm damage, the Benton County Road Department is dealing with a storm of its own. Director Scott Stober was recently booked into the Benton County Jail facing felony theft charges. Now, Superintendent Jack Brown has been placed on administrative leave. Vernon Bazey recently retired on good terms, but that has cut the number of road department supervisors in half. Now, just three people trying to deal with the damage.

"We're trying to get through that and sort through all that shorthanded and then this happens which really just adds to my job. It's a big deal."

Judge Clinard said it has been a challenge, trying to change the way they operate in just the last week and now, trying to also deal with all the storm damage and repairs that need to happen as soon as possible.


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