Gov. Phil Batt was in a light mood Tuesday as he handed out money to Shoshone County commissioners to help pay for 1996 flood damage.
“The best thing to ever happen for disaster relief in this state is Phil Batt,” said John Cline, director of the state Bureau of Disaster Services.
The people of Shoshone County would be hard-pressed to disagree. Smiles and praise greeted the governor as he stepped onto the newly reconstructed dike that broke last year, causing Cataldo to be flooded.
“You don’t know how much this meant to us and how much safer we feel,” said Ken Tilton, co-chairman of the Cataldo Flood Commission.
The governor handed out nearly $200,000 to county officials. The money will meet the 25 percent requirement for receiving federal matching funds.
“We have agreed to pick up all federal matching funds,” Batt said. “We don’t want to see the local governments pay.”
Sherry Krulitz, a Shoshone County commissioner, said the county never could have come up with enough money to get the federal funds.
“We knew we had to take this kind of action,” said Lt. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. “We knew it was the right thing to do.”
Both the state and federal money will go toward fixing dikes and roads and buying out homeowners who live on the flood plain or raising their houses to a safe level.
The governor said he is impressed by the steps the county has taken since the flooding.
“We’re awful happy that we’re accomplishing what we set out to do,” he said.
Batt said the flood relief never would have happened if not for the way local, state and federal governments worked together.
“I’m a Republican and I’m not used to praising the federal government, but I have nothing but praise for FEMA,” he said in referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “I really enjoy working with North Idaho because they’re independent.”