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FEMA denies appeal for more Bridgeport aid

Updated 10:20 pm, Saturday, May 25, 2013
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BRIDGEPORT -- The snow is long gone, but February's blizzard continues to cloud the city's finances.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied the state's appeal to provide more disaster aid to help cover cleanup costs -- a decision that hurts Bridgeport, in particular.

Mayor Bill Finch's administration has said it spent upwards of $1.7 million clearing the 30 inches of snow that fell on the city Feb. 8 and 9.

Critics hammered the city for taking the better part of a week to get the job done. Normally, FEMA covers 48 hours of snow removal expenses as a matter of policy.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office had hoped the federal government would consider covering expenses for 72 hours.

FEMA ultimately agreed to do so, but only for two of the state's eight counties -- Hartford and New Haven. FEMA concluded that the others, including Fairfield County, did not receive enough snow to qualify.

The state appealed FEMA's decision and, on May 14, was denied.

"I regret we could not reach a more favorable conclusion," FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator Elizabeth Zimmerman wrote Malloy.

In a statement Friday, Finch expressed frustration with FEMA's formula, which uses a countywide analysis of snowfall that worked against Bridgeport. "Because much of lower Fairfield County did not have record snowfall, Bridgeport was placed at a significant disadvantage in applying for the additional funds," Finch said.

"The February snowstorm was the most amount of snow the city has experienced since 1888. I hope that our federal delegation will work with the state of Connecticut to have FEMA reconsider the formula by which it determined assistance."

The mayor's office Friday could not immediately provide additional details about how FEMA's decision impacts either the current budget or the recently approved 2013-14 fiscal plan.

The latter, which begins July 1, is already balanced on some million-dollar assumptions of state aid and union concessions.

FEMA does, however, give municipalities flexibility in choosing the 48-hour window covered by federal emergency aid.

brian.lockhart@scni.com; 203-414-0712; http://twitter.com/blockhart