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December 21, 2013

Consultant ups town's damage estimate

WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) — A consultant hired by tornado-hit Washington has calculated a higher damage estimate that could make the central Illinois town and the state eligible for federal disaster help, city officials said Thursday.

The initial dollar estimate was $5.8 million, a figure low enough that local officials feared it might prevent the state of Illinois from reaching the $17.8 million threshold for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Washington was hit hard by one of the roughly two dozen tornadoes that raked parts of Illinois on Nov. 17. In all, seven people died around the state, and thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.

The town hired a consultant from North Carolina, who said the estimate for just removing debris from the central Illinois town came to $12.4 million, City Administrator Tim Gleason said during a community forum Thursday. City officials had initially decided not to include many of the debris-related expenses and put their costs at $4.1 million.

“After working with the consultant, and after he showed us that there were other parts of the FEMA guidelines, we felt comfortable submitting the entire $12.4 million that it would cost to get all of this debris out of here,” Gleason said, according to the Journal Star in Peoria.

With damage elsewhere in other towns around Washington, the figure for Tazewell County is about $23 million, Mayor Gary Manier said. He’s now optimistic about reaching the federal threshold.

And even if federal officials don’t allow some costs and lower the damage estimate, “We’ll keep re-applying if we don’t get it,” Manier told the newspaper. “We won’t bankrupt this city.”

City officials have sent the revised figure to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office, which will have to submit them to federal officials.

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