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021514-nws-fema

Pennington County commissioners voted to not seek federal money for reimbursement for help provided during the October blizzard by volunteers.

Pennington County Commissioners voted Friday to not seek federal compensation for volunteer time and equipment provided during the October blizzard.

The approximately $5,500 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have been applied to the county’s portion of the overall storm costs. Commissioners said that since the volunteers would not see any of the money for their time, the county should not accept the funds.

The majority of the money that FEMA agreed to pay, if requested, was for volunteers who donated snowmobiles, helped rescue motorists and get paramedics to homes.

Emergency Management Director Dustin Willett said no policy exists that allows for volunteer compensation, so the county can't compensate them.

Several commissioners said taking the money would go against the principle of the volunteers' generosity.

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"You do it because you want to help someone," Commissioner Nancy Trautman said. "It just doesn't make a lot of sense (to ask for the money)."

The vote was 4-1 to reject the funds. Commissioner Lyndell Petersen voted against rejecting it.

Commissioners did approve a separate request for FEMA compensation for damage to county equipment and vehicles during the storm. The county will request around $30,000 for damages not covered by its insurance.

They approved a request for $365,000 in FEMA compensation last week for the county's debris cleanup and emergency services costs from the blizzard.

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Contact Meredith Colias at 394-8417 or meredith.colias@rapidcityjournal.com.

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