FEMA officials tour storm damage in New Canaan
Published 1:05 am, Thursday, April 1, 2010
While the final numbers are still being tallied, town officials believe municipal damage stemming from the March 13 storm will cost the town between $290,000 and $350,000
Walker describes this preliminary total as "pretty close" to what he suspects the final damage assessment will be and said he is not optimistic about qualifying for reimbursement aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Last week Gov. M. Jodi Rell requested federal disaster assistance from FEMA that might bring disaster relief dollars to New Canaan.
In order for Rell to receive the requested Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, the state must meet a threshold of $4.39 million in damage and Fairfield County must meet a threshold of $2.85 million in storm damage, according to Brenda Bergeron, legal advisor to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS).
A preliminary review by DEMHS estimated that state costs associated with storm damage will amount to more than $7 million.
"If we were using 20 dump trucks, there's a cost associated with that for gas and maintenance," said the town's Emergency Management Director David Jonker, who headed the Emergency Operations Center during and following the storm.
According to First Selectman Jeb Walker, between $100,000 and $150,000 was funneled to hire outside contractors for cleanup and between $100,000 and $110,000 was spent on unanticipated overtime during the storm. This preliminary figure includes overtime from the police department, the department of public works and all other town agencies, he said.
The town also spent about $50,000 on hauling debris out on town or to the transfer station on the backs of trucks, Walker said.
There is no town threshold that New Canaan must meet in order for it to be included in the reimbursement if it is awarded, Bergeron said.
FEMA conducted two types of assessments in New Canaan and around Fairfield County this week, according to Bergeron. The first is a public assistance assessment, for which FEMA officials analyze municipal damage to roadways and buildings, she said.
The second assessment FEMA conducts pertains to individual assistance, for which FEMA officials analyze the damage to private residences and individual households, according to Bergeron.
"You have to show 100 homes [in the county] with major damage, and that means you can't live there," Bergeron said.
Walker said there are four or five homes in New Canaan with major damage.
"If a tree falls on your house and you have insurance, then you're probably not going to get money from FEMA," Bergeron said. "It's for damage that is uninsured or under-insured."
Other towns slated to receive visits from FEMA officials this week include Darien, Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, Stratford, Bridgeport, Fairfield and West Haven.
Ultimately the State of Connecticut will submit a report to FEMA with a complete damage assessment, according to FEMA spokesperson Suzanne Novak. If the regional storm damage meets the state and county thresholds, President Obama will receive a report and decide whether to grant aid to Connecticut, she said.
"There is little doubt in my mind that FEMA will see what I saw: a region battered by a storm more severe than any in recent memory," Rell said. "Thousands of trees were damaged or uprooted, hundreds of homes and cars were damaged and nearly 100,000 people were left without power -- some for as long as six days after the storm."