HISTORIC FLOODING: Sauk Co. partners with Habitat for Humanity to repair homes

Courtesy: Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin River Area
Courtesy: Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin River Area(NBC15)
Published: Aug. 15, 2019 at 4:06 PM CDT
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Sauk Co. is still in its recovery process, one year after historic flooding rocked several communities in the area. In August of 2018, rising waters caused around $15 million worth of damage to homes, according to county officials.

Jeff Jelinek, the Sauk Co. emergency management director, said the county partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin River Area in July to help repair homes.

“Our hardest hit areas were just right down the Baraboo corridor, so La Valle, Reesdsburg, Rock Springs, North Freedom got a little bit of it, but for the most part it was those three communities on down,” he said.

He said this is the first time the two organizations partnered in response to the flooding.

The executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin River Area, Morgan Pfaff, said their location serves Sauk, Columbia and Iowa counties. She said while the non-profit focuses on affordable housing, repairing homes damaged by floods in Sauk Co. is now at the forefront of many of their projects.

"It had an enormous impact, and now joining this community, I talked to people who went through it and it was really a life-changing event for so many,” she said.

A year after heavy rains drenched the area, many people were left with a mess they could not tackle alone. Pfaff said this is the reason they partnered with the county.

Jelinek said dealing with flood damage is still at the forefront of the county as well. He said a lot of work still needs to be done.

"After a while you keep hearing the same stories and it gets very trying,” he said.

He said the new partnership is alleviating some pressures.

“We are saving money that we can help additional families that might not be in that bracket or that area,” he said.

In July, Habitat for Humanity volunteers started their first home in partnership with the county.

“We just finished a project in Ironton , so this was where it was just a complete destruction of the basement, it was an older home and it really had become structurally unsound,” Pfaff said.

Pfaff said volunteers are helping to clean up, so professionals can come in and finish the work, ultimately saving money in labor costs for the county.

Habitat for Humanity of Wisconsin River Area has several other projects coming up as part of the Sauk Co. partnership, with the next one being in Wonewoc in early Sept.

Jelinek said the long-term recovery fund, which is made up of around $310,000 of community donations, should be spent by the fall. He said they are still working to get FEMA aid to cities, towns and villages that need it, and are still estimating damage to public infrastructure.