Westport expecting $1.5M back for storm and COVID costs

A generator powers a business in the aftermath of a Tropical Storm Isaias in the still dark Saugatuck section of Westport, Conn. on Monday, August 10, 2020.

A generator powers a business in the aftermath of a Tropical Storm Isaias in the still dark Saugatuck section of Westport, Conn. on Monday, August 10, 2020.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Town officials are optimistic they will receive about $1.5 million in reimbursements from the state and federal government for this fiscal year’s pandemic and Tropical Storm Isaias expenses.

“Fortunately Tropical Storm Isaias has been declared a federal emergency, so that the town can receive a full reimbursement for the funds it spent responding to the storm,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “I am hopeful that the Cares Act COVID reimbursement will cover those full costs as well.”

The first hurdles were already cleared this month with appropriations from the finance board.

The town covers the cost for emergency situations upfront, and goes to the finance board and then the Representative Town Meeting for the appropriation. It is generally then reimbursed by the state or federal government.

“The town normally expects federal reimbursement for declared emergency situations,” said Sara Harris, Westport’s operations director.

The finance board approved the $780,000 for the Isaias cleanup.

“We’ll recover everything that was expended over the hurricane, plus some,” Finance Director Gary Conrad said at that finance meeting.

In addition to the 100 percent reimbursement for the actual costs, he said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover the use of the town’s own equipment and overtime. The total comes to close to $1 million.

“We filed similar claims in the past,” he said. “It’s pretty easily done. We have a lot of experience so the accounting is pretty quick.”

He said this comes with a downside though, because while the town get some federal money for the equipment, the amount of work needed to cleanup after the storm shortened that equipment’s life.

The finance board also approved a $380,000 appropriation for COVID expenses. A $400,000 one had already been approved back in July but has since been exhausted.

The money will be used to cover protective equipment, sanitizing, legal fees, signage and employee testing, which is the most expensive piece of it.

Harris said they’re also expecting 100 percent to be reimbursed for COVID costs.

“However, we will not know the full amount until the federal government determines what exactly is reimbursable,” she said. “So far, we have received a $325,000 reimbursement from the state under the Cares Act for COVID expenditures. We are not sure when we will receive the remaining funds.”

Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern remained skeptical the money would come through, but said the chatter does sound favorable.

“I hate to say it, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said.

kkoerting@newstimes.com