U.P. communities will compete for winter infrastructure grants

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has $6 million in grants for Michigan communities in counties that had a state of emergency declared due to bitter winter temperatures.

There are nine such counties, six of which are in the U.P.

“We’ve had close to $6.3 million worth in damage in Marquette County, (and) almost $20 million in damage to the whole U.P., so we are continuing to work to help these jurisdictions receive some kind of aid or assistance for the damage that the freeze caused,” Marquette County emergency management program coordinator Teresa Schwalbach said.

Individual cities, townships and villages will have to apply for the grants. Although Marquette County Board of Commissioners chairman Gerry Corkin still has questions, he believes this is a positive step.

“I guess there’s still questions as to what impact this might have on our FEMA request, so the details on this we’ll learn about later,” he said.

Marquette County officials have applied for federal disaster relief through FEMA within the last week or so.

“We’re waiting for FEMA; we should know, hopefully, Friday,” Schwalbach said. “All the paperwork and all the information was sent in by the state to them, so we’re just waiting to hear back from them to see how much, and if we’re going to get a presidential (disaster) declaration.”

U.P. communities will have to compete for the MEDC money not only with one another, but with municipalities in three downstate counties. And there are many worthy uses for the cash.

Main Street in Ishpeming in front of the Carnegie Public Library and Canda Street in front of the former Mather Inn are still off limits to traffic in late July after water main breaks in mid-March.

Any community that receives money will have to contribute a 15% local match.

“I don’t see the local matching dollars being a problem, but I guess these are competitive grants, so I guess that could be an issue,” Corkin said. “There were so many needs in the U.P.”

Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Marquette County in mid-April.