SILVER CLIFF, Wis. (WFRV) – It has been one month since an EF2 tornado tore through Silver Cliff in western Marinette County and the town’s small government is still working to pick up the pieces.
Bruce Weber, the Town of Silver Cliff Chairman said, “This is our primary area of concern. This is our public safety building which housed our fire department and our rescue squad. And you can see there is significant damage here.”
Weber said it will cost approximately two and a half million dollars to build a new fire station and due to inflation the town is significantly under insured.
“We’re probably looking at a million to a million and a half dollar deficit in construction costs for a new facility vs what we’re insured for,” he said.
The damage to the fire station was so significant the town will have to tear it down and start over.
“All the structural steel. You can see the wind just pushed the building right in,” said Weber. “You can see the entire roof lifted up off of the beams.”
The fire station was not the only building to be destroyed, a municipal work building was leveled, thousand of trees were downed and park facilities faced significant damages.
“You’ve got a good $1.5 million worth of buildings down there that are damaged,” he said. “You’ve got $2.5 million to build there so you’re at 4 [million] already. So then how do you put a cost on all this — all the trees and all the things that are around.”
The Town of Silver Cliff said it is facing up to $5 million dollars in damages to municipal buildings and does not qualify for FEMA funding. Instead it was suggested to raise taxes on its 500 residents or hold community fundraisers to close the budget gap.
“That’s what they want you to do,” said Weber. “A 50/50 raffle to raise $1 million dollars. A 50/50 raffle, a 5K run, a barbeque fundraiser.”
Weber is frustrated at the town does not qualify for FEMA funds.
“They’re saying in the entire state we did not have $10 million dollars of damage which shuts the door on any FEMA funding that would be available,” said Weber. “This is where they tell you to go look for funding but bc the state did not declare a state of emergency or the county we cannot access any of that FEMA funding.”
Weber said his town only collects $126 thousand a year in taxes and with 73% of the residents on social security and 65% aged 60 and older raising taxes to collect $5 million is not an option.
“I would expect the governor would look at small towns like this and the damage and our ability to rebuild this critical piece of our infrastructure and assign somebody to come out and help the towns,” said Weber.
Weber said because Silver Cliff is a town his government must provide fire and EMS services but does not know how they will rebuild the public safety building without additional sources of funding. Fire and rescue is temporarily housed in a small old building but he says this is not an ideal long term solution.
Weber said Congressman Mike Gallagher sent a representative to Silver Cliff to survey the damage and his office is working with the town to find federal funding to fix the damages.