BRIDGEPORT -- This month's blizzard buried the city under 30 inches of snow - and nearly $1.7 million in bills.
To put that figure in perspective, the public facilities department's 2012-13 budget set aside $100,000 for snow removal overtime.
Finch spokesman Timothy Hammill said the administration spent the money on overtime, equipment, supplies and outside contractors.
"Wow. That's insane," Councilwoman Susan Brannelly, D-130, a member of the budget and appropriations committee, said of the $1.7 million price tag.
Committee chairman Angel dePara, Jr. agreed $1.7 million sounded like a lot of money.
"But then again when the city was faced with the amount of snow we had gotten and the difficulties handling such an event, it seems a little bit more plausible," dePara said.
Some of the expense will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but there is a big question mark over that amount.
The Finch administration is in the process of crunching the numbers with the goal of convincing the federal government to cover Bridgeport for more than what was originally offered.
President Barack Obama on Feb. 10 issued an emergency declaration for Connecticut, which makes the state and its municipalities eligible for financial assistance to cover 75 percent of blizzard response costs over 48 hours.
When that 48-hour window begins and ends is up to the recipients.
"The time frame will be determined based on the costliest portion of storm cleanup, and that time frame has not been determined as yet," Hammill said.
Bridgeport and other municipalities are counting on Gov. Dannel Malloy to convince FEMA to issue a major disaster declaration, expanding the amount of work that qualifies for federal aid.
But DeVico acknowledged it could prove a challenge.
"The snowfall declarations are much more complicated than other disaster declarations," he said.
The Finch administration has been accused by some of not being prepared for the blizzard and taking too long to plow streets and sidewalks.
One critic, resident David Walker, U.S. Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008, suggested to city officials at last week's hearing on blizzard response that by stretching out the cleanup effort over days the Finch administration threw away money that could have been recouped from FEMA.
The mayor and his public facilities staff have replied Bridgeport has not seen 30 inches of snowfall since the late 1800s - a factor which will be part of Malloy's pitch to FEMA.
"There are different criterias you have to meet with regards to record snowfall," DeVico said.
Finch has also said it would not be practical for the city to charge taxpayers to maintain the staff and equipment necessary for such an historic event.
But it is unclear if public facilities could have been somewhat better prepared for such a storm.
Budget documents show that for the past handful of fiscal years the department, because of limited resources, was prevented from fulfilling a recurring goal to reconfigure snow routes and improve plowing efficiency.
The 2012-13 budget currently calls for expanding snow routes from 22 to 30 to clear roads faster.
Hammill said as of winter 2010-11, the city had realigned some streets into routes requiring special equipment that can better navigate smaller, narrow streets, cul-de-sacs and dead ends.
"We are currently operating as efficiently as is possible," Hammill said. "We have made cuts in spending across the board, to provide city services while lowering the tax burden on property owners."
email@example.com; 203-414-0712; http://twitter.com/blockhart1