Soon after Hurricane Irene swept through Rockland County, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arrived to help municipalities and non-profit agencies figure out what their costs were for storm preparation, response and cleanup and how to apply for reimbursement.
“To date, we have estimated projects that total $14,912,643,” said Chris Jensen, program coordinator for the County Office of Fire and Emergency Services.
That tally covers work needed across the county.
One of, if not the highest estimate came from the Town of Clarkstown. In order to cover all the expenses associated with the August 27 storm, the town figured it is facing an approximate bill of $1,940,000 which it hopes FEMA will fund.
“It’s for emergency response, expenses as well as repairs to public infrastructure that could be roads, bridges, culverts,” explained Jensen.
He said the figure includes overtime costs for law enforcement and highway department employees, the use of vehicles, equipment such as saws and pumps and repairs to roads and culverts.
The Town of Orangetown submitted remediation projects amounting to $190,000.
“These are strong estimates,” Jensen said, who explained the municipalities and non-profits met with FEMA and state and county emergency services representatives.
Other examples of reimbursements being sought:
- Blauvelt Volunteer Fire Department - $15,000
- Central Nyack Fire Department - $5,000
- Nyack School district - $64,754
- South Orangetown School District - $16,000
The reimbursement funds from FEMA are not paid upfront usually they are made when the project is completed. The exception is for large-scale repairs or replacements, which may receive payments for reaching benchmarks in construction. Some of the projects could take longer than a year because of needed drawings, the bid process and permitting required before the start of construction.
Aid sought from FEMA and Federal Highway Agency
The Rockland County Highway Department will be seeking financial assistance from FEMA as well as the Federal Highway Agency for the costs it incurred from the hurricane.
“We have some rough numbers now,” said County Highway Department Deputy Superintendent Andy Connors. “We’re approaching $800,000.”
Connors said that is nowhere near the final total which he expects will reach up $7 million or $8 million to replace county highway facilities including roads, bridges and debris cleanup. He said the county was progressing with hurricane cleanup when the nor’easter hit and in some cases it may be difficult to determine which storm caused the damage or portion of the damage.
More than 99 percent of the roads and bridges the department is responsible for are classified as federal aid roads. Those roadways are eligible for federal highway funds since the county and New York State received disaster designations. However, the storm damaged a total of 37 counties, which may wind up sharing the $100 million of allotted federal aid per state.
“Roughly speaking there may not be enough money to cover the bills,” said Connors.
For example, 42 federal aid bridges were destroyed in New York State and only one of them located in Rockland. Connors said streets in Rockland’s towns and villages are considered local roads and fall under FEMA’s jurisdiction. It is up to the towns and villages to apply to FEMA.
The storm-damaged Waldron Terrace Bridge in Sloatsburg is a county bridge on a local street that is eligible for FEMA reimbursement. However, the case is different for the Montebello Road Bridge, which is located on a village street. Both the bridge and street are listed on the federal aid system and not considered FEMA eligible.
Connors said the department's data collection is continuing.
“We are in the process of collecting the information and preparing the reports for reimbursements,” said Connors. “It’s time consuming.”