Westport set to receive FEMA funds for snow costs
After enduring prolific snowfall this winter, Westport is now set to receive a windfall.
Following President Barack Obama's disaster declaration last week for six Connecticut counties, including Fairfield County, hit by the Jan. 11-12 snow storm, Westport will be eligible to receive relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA could reimburse the town for up to 75 percent of its refundable storm costs, which comprise equipment expenses, town employee overtime pay and contractors' services. Regular hours worked by town employees during the storm are not covered by federal funds.
Based on a preliminary storm cost estimate of $150,000 submitted to FEMA last month by Public Works Director Steve Edwards, the town could receive about $110,000 for its storm cleanup operations.
That allocation would equate to only about 10 percent of the town's storm management costs incurred so far this fiscal year. Town officials nevertheless welcomed the assistance.
"We're glad to have it," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. "Every little bit helps."
The Jan. 11-12 storm dumped about 20 inches of snow on Westport, the town's largest snowfall this winter.
Edwards' preliminary cost estimate did not include storm expenditures by other departments such as fire and police. Including all departments' storm costs, Edwards said he expects that his final estimate would be 10 to 15 percent more than the preliminary assessment.
But with his department's expenditures apparently minimal for the Jan. 11-12 storm, Fire Chief Christopher Ackley said he did not plan to apply for federal reimbursement.
"For the amount of paperwork for us to get the money back for two shifts of overtime, it's not worth it," he said.
After the town receives application guidelines from FEMA, Edwards said he anticipates submitting the town's official application for federal funds within the next seven to -10 days. The town, he added, would probably receive the reimbursement several months later. The funds would likely be disbursed through the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Edwards said his department has spent about $900,000 on storm management during the current fiscal year, although this year's budget only allocates $410,000 for such costs.
But with the town able to draw from cash reserves to close the storm budget deficit, Edwards noted DPW was fiscally well-positioned even without federal funds.
"Is the town going to go broke if it doesn't get it? No," he said. "Is the town going to appreciate the assistance? Yes."