Warren County Sheriff says flood expenses are nearly a quarter million dollars for his department

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The Warren County Sheriff’s Department has borne the brunt of the county’s expenses to keep people safe during the Great Backwater Flood of 2019. By Sept. 1, those expenses were bumping up against a quarter million dollars.

Sheriff Martin Pace provided the following breakdown of flood-related costs from Feb. 28 to Sept. 1.

Repairs due to deer/vehicles $12,261
Payroll for deputies $166,331
Mileage/Gas for boats and vehicles $51, 520
Rent for mobile storage unit $8,540
Supplies/Gear $4,433
Total (as of Sept. 1) $243,085

As just one example of why it was so expensive for his department, Pace said he had to establish a substation which increased the payroll by more than 600 man hours.

The costs, though, don’t show the tremendous amount of work deputies have been putting in. Under normal circumstances, deputies work three days on and three days off with an average 12-hour shift per day. As a result of the flooding, many are taking only one off day to make sure lives and property are protected.

Since February, deputies have been heavily patrolling all of the flooded areas including Floweree Road. Because Eagle Lake was virtually cut off, Pace said it was treated a bit differently. Even today, deputies are still patrolling the area 24/7, and the costs continue to mount.

“I was keeping at least two, sometimes three deputies at Eagle Lake 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Pace told WJTV. “And we had a man and checkpoint to check people in and out of the evacuated area. I was keeping at least 22, sometimes 23 deputies at Eagle Lake 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Some financial relief is on the way for Pace and his department.

On Aug. 24, the Federal Emergency Management Agency added Warren County to the list of counties eligible for federal public assistance because of the flooding. At this point, no specific dollar amount has been attached to that aid mostly because all of the costs have yet to be tallied and submitted, said John Elfer, director of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency.

“Until the engineers get out there and look at the roads, and kind of look at really how much debris removal we have, I don’t think we have a good handle on that, yet,” Elfer said.

He hopes the federal relief will be in the half-million dollar range or more; however those funds will need to go in many directions, not just to the sheriff’s department.

“If we can get at least half of [the sheriff’s expenses reimbursed], I would be pleased,” he said, “and it could be more than that.”