Dayton surveys storm and fire damage in Cambridge

By Elizabeth Sias

Gov. Mark Dayton visited Cambridge on Monday to survey damage from the storm that swept through the city earlier this month.

Rep. Kurt Daudt and Gov. Mark Dayton view what’s left of the Isanti County Historical Society building that was destroyed by arson. The governor was in town to survey storm damage after he requested financial aid from FEMA. Photos by Elizabeth Sias

The governor sent a letter to President Obama on July 20 requesting a major federal disaster declaration for 14 Minnesota counties and one tribal nation affected by storms July 1 through July 11, including Isanti County.

“It’s really impressive how quickly the city responded and how successful they were in, as (Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer) said, containing the chaos,” Dayton said, adding that he expects it will be approved within 10 days.

Before viewing storm damage around the city, Dayton met with county officials, along with Palmer and Rep. Kurt Daudt, who invited the governor to visit.

In the letter, he requested Chisago, Isanti, Kandiyohi, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Pine, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Stearns, Yellow Medicine and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe be included in the disaster declaration after preliminary damage assessments revealed nearly $19 million in costs and damages.

If the president declares a major disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will fund 75 percent of approved costs and the state will fund 15 percent. Eligible work might include debris removal, emergency services related to the disaster and repair or replacement of damaged public facilities such as roads, power poles, buildings and recreation areas.

Dayton requested a major disaster declaration including two categories of aid — public assistance and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The first involves assistance to state and local government and certain nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. Under the grant program, assistance would be provided in taking action to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

While in Cambridge, Dayton visited the remains of the Isanti County Historical Society (ICHS) building that was destroyed by arson earlier this month.

Rep. Kurt Daudt, Minnesota Historical Society Director and CEO Stephen Elliot, Isanti County Historical Society Executive Director Kathy McCully, Gov. Mark Dayton and Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer gather in front of the remains of the Isanti County Historical Society building July 25 as Elliot presents McCully with an emergency grant of $7,000. Dayton visited Cambridge to survey storm damage; the governor requested financial support from FEMA for the county.

“This kind of wanton destruction is heartbreaking because so much here is irreplaceable,” he said. “The spirit has already shown in terms of the determination to move ahead.”

Stephen Elliot, director and CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society, presented a $7,000 check to ICHS Executive Director Kathy McCully for emergency support, discussing the cleanup efforts with Dayton and Rep. Daudt.

“It’s been a one-two punch for our community, but it shows the resilience of the community in how they cleaned up after the storm damage,” Daudt said. “The cleanup from (the fire) will take a little longer, but we’ll get it back up and running and  get our archives restored and this will become part of the story as well.”