As published in the Record Journal on Friday February 15, 2013
By Dan Brechlin
“Wallingford spent more than $800,000 on that storm (October 2011), and more than $900,000 on Tropical Storm Irene. Last weekend’s blizzard is expected to be a significant cost, though Wallingford avoided the added expense of hiring numerous private contractors. Just two pieces of equipment were rented, and one operator was hired.”
“Last weekend’s storm drew the quickest disaster declaration (for FEMA reimbursement)”
Municipal leaders will spend the next several days tallying pay, fuel, equipment maintenance, contracting, and other costs related to last weekend’s blizzard. The storm is expected to exact a heavy price.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama declared Connecticut a disaster area, meaning municipalities will be eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses incurred during part of the storm.
The area is used to this. Since the beginning of 2011, it has qualified for FEMA reimbursement for an early 2011 snowstorm, Tropical Storm Irene, the October snowstorm of 2011, and Superstorm Sandy. Last weekend’s storm drew the quickest disaster declaration.
“Even before the beginning of the storm we started calculating our expenses, including pre-treating the roads,” said David Bowen, Meriden’s deputy fire chief and emergency management director.
Typically, FEMA reimburses for 48 hours of the storm and recovery costs, Bowen said. For last weekend’s snowstorm, because of the record-breaking totals, 75 percent of the costs were reimbursed over 72 hours.
The total costs associated with last weekend’s storm have yet to be determined, but they are expected to be significant. Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback typically budgets for about six storms a year, and said last weekend’s blizzard added up to several storms.
“Even with the FEMA reimbursement, this will account for two or three storms worth of expense,” Brumback said. “Without FEMA, this would be devastating.”
Southington’s budget for snow removal this fiscal year is $670,000. Like other municipalities, Southington paid a high fee for maintenance on its equipment because the large amount of snow caused numerous breakdowns and equipment failures. The long time spent on the roads also lead to high fuel costs and a significant overtime cost.
“We wanted to get our town back to normal as quickly as possible,” Brumback said, and that also added costs, including the hiring of additional private contractors.
Though he expects a big bill, Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone said it will likely not be as high as the tab for the October snowstorm in 2011. That storm left heavy damage and thousands in the area without power.
“This will probably be $150,000 to $200,000,” after FEMA reimbursement, said Milone. “We were better off than most towns and still had four or five days of hard work. Some other communities, it will take a lot longer.”
Dealing with the October 2011 storm, Cheshire spent $530,000 before any reimbursement. In addition to cleanup, paying for town buildings to run on generators was a significant cost.
Wallingford spent more than $800,000 on that storm, and more than $900,000 on Tropical Storm Irene. Last weekend’s blizzard is expected to be a significant cost, though Wallingford avoided the added expense of hiring numerous private contractors. Just two pieces of equipment were rented, and one operator was hired.
Before this past weekend’s snowfall, Meriden had already used half of its $500,000 snow removal budget. In 2011, the city spent nearly $840,000 on the January snowstorm and more than $1 million on the October snowstorm.
“It was done fairly well; there’s no real way to clear aloof the streets in one day,” Bowen said, noting that sometimes events happen and bills have to be paid. “It’s just like if your roof at your house starts to leak and you have to get it fixed. You have to respond and that’s what it costs sometimes.”
Bowen said calculating the total cost is complicated because of the many types of expenses. Though municipal leaders expressed confidence in paying the high bill, Brumback said he is hoping that there are not any more significant storms in the near future.
“If we’re at all fortunate and Mother Nature smiles on us, we will still have the ability to have a budget for one or two more storms going forward,” he said.