Congressman Bill Huizenga tours storm damage
BALDWIN — U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, visited Baldwin on Saturday to view damage from the tornado which devastated the area on Aug. 28, and talk with local officials about possible funding to assist Lake County in recovering from the disaster.
Much of the county was hit with damage from straight-lined winds and two tornadoes, an EF-0 in Baldwin and EF-1 near Idlewild last Tuesday evening.
Huizenga was going to tour damage in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, but with more stormy weather due — decided to stay in town.
“You are in our thoughts and prayers," Huizenga told those gathered at the Baldwin-White Cloud Ranger Station. "I am going to try and give you as much attention as we can at the federal and state level. To get relief, it has to be determined there was a tornado, and local officials, such as the village president and county administrator must request assistance. The governor must declare a disaster area before funds can be triggered at a federal level. I know the frustration many feel — they want help now and don’t have the funds to do anything. There is not a method in place where you can just write a check."
State Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant, who was present at the meeting, offered help communicating with Gov. Rick Snyder to try to get assistance.
"I will continue to be in contact with county folks, and work with state folks to get this declared an emergency," Huizenga said. "We need to make sure the government is working for the people and not against the people. This is a very special community, with people focused on watching each other’s back. Volunteers are putting in full-time hours and people are putting others above themselves. Make sure people know what is happening in Lake County."
Huizenga said in order to advocate for assistance for Lake County, he needs to show what impact the storm had.
"The damage is evident and I need to show the impact, like tourists not coming. Lake County is one of the most used recreation areas in the state, and we need to make sure it is open," he said, adding there has been closures of certain recreational areas on the Pere Marquette River and some of the off-road vehicle trails through federal land.