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A Flood of Paperwork: The Cost of Irene

Town submits costs associated with Hurricane Irene for reimbursement by FEMA

New Milford has filed to be reimbursed for more than $116,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for costs associated with Hurricane Irene, which ravaged the town in August.

As a result of President Obama's declaration that all 21 counties in New Jersey are eligible for disaster relief from the effects of Irene, FEMA will pay affected towns 75 percent of claims related to expenses incurred for storm preparation and repairs to infrastructure, mitigation and clean-up. 

Police Chief Frank Papappietro, who is also New Milford's Emergency Management Coordinator, sat down with Patch to discuss the borough's reimburseable expenses related to Hurricane Irene.

"The $116,000 figure represents 75 percent of the costs associated with Irene," Papapietro said. "Costs include labor, overtime, equipment, debris removal from flooding and direct administrative costs."

Towns make general projections in their annual budgets on the amount of money they need to allocate for emergencies and make estimates based on previous storms, he said.

Small towns, like New Milford — which have small budgets with little financial wiggle room for the impact of a severe weather event such as Irene — can't hold back their resources or slow down their response time to clean up because they fear that they will not be reimbursed, Papapietro said. They must put the money out in hopes of getting a significant portion of it back from FEMA once a state of emergency is issued.  

Applying for FEMA funds is an administrative labor-intensive in task. A close accounting of all expenses (including manpower, administrative time, overtime and equipment) must be kept by all departments throughout the preparation process and during the actual storm and clean-up effort.

"FEMA breaks up projects into distinct categories such as DPW, Firefighters, Police and Contractors," Papapietro said. "Every expense must be accounted for by following FEMA's strict guidelines if any reimbursable money is to be realized by the town."

During Hurricane Irene, New Milford's expenses totaled $155,251.31. Here is a detailed breakdown of those expenses: 

  • Overtime (DPW and Police): $18,265.01
  • Equipment (DPW, Police, Fire): $18,012.17
  • Contractors--emergency vegetative debris removal operations: $97,744.17
  • Direct administrative costs: $1015.06
  • Materials/cleaning (DPW building): $20,214.90

According to officials, in addition to FEMA funds, the borough has been reimbursed by its flood insurance carrier for damages incurred by flooding at the DPW building. The town has received two checks, the first in the amount of $12,167.18 and the second in the amount of $38,302.50.

Now that all of the expenses have been submitted for Irene — the borough filed for reimbursement of a total of $116,438.48 — Papapietro is working on submitting the expenses related to the October snowstorm. 

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