Storm cleanup to cost millions


Just as the snow and debris are being cleared away, the bills are starting to pile up.

Towns and villages around the region are blowing through their budgets as employees work long hours plowing snow, hauling away debris and responding to a litany of emergencies large and small. They plan ahead for a certain amount of that work every year, but the recent one-two punch of wind and snow was, in most cases, more than the standard budget foresees.

Webster Town Supervisor Ron Nesbitt said the damage there is the most extensive, and costliest, since the Ice Storm of 1991.

"What I'm trying to do right now is find a place to put all this stuff," he said Wednesday, referring to the tons of tree limbs, snow and ice. The town has asked Xerox about dumping it in one of its parking lots until it can mulch all of the branches.

Already, the town has submitted cost estimates to Monroe County and the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services: $3.6 million over the next three months, with labor ($1.7 million) and equipment ($1.2 million) as the largest items.

Gates Supervisor Mark Assini pegged the damage there at $255,000. Irondequoit didn't have the same estimate ready for its storm cleanup, but Town Supervisor Dave Seeley said perhaps six houses were damaged irreparably in the windstorm.

"Some of them we thought might just have significant damage, when we went back out the foundation had shifted," he said.

"Unfortunately for about probably a half a dozen homeowners it will probably be a total loss."

In Pittsford, which was spared the worst of the wind, Town Supervisor Bill Smith said there will be less than $15,000 in additional costs. That doesn't include paying extra for cleanup work employees do on their regularly scheduled shifts.

Both Greece and the city of Rochester said they have no updated estimates, but the city did lose about 250 municipal trees in the wind storm.

Those local governments and others are waiting eagerly for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decide whether to submit a disaster relief request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The first step in that state process is tallying damage estimates to see whether they meet the "public assistance damage threshold."

That threshold is $2.68 million for Monroe County and $27.7 million statewide. Once those numbers are surpassed, the governor can ask FEMA to help cover costs.

If Cuomo makes such an application, and if FEMA declares the recent storms to constitute a "major disaster," the federal government will reimburse local governments and other agencies for storm-related costs they incurred. In some cases, individuals can get money for damage to their property as well.

Cuomo has 30 days to ask FEMA for help. A DHSES spokeswoman would only say the department has been "working closely with Monroe County and local municipalities to gather damage estimates from last week's severe wind storm." She did not share cost estimates like the one Webster submitted; a county spokesman did not respond to a request for information.

There is also the question of how utility companies will cover their substantial costs, including bringing in hundreds of workers from other states and Canada. FEMA has reimbursed utilities in some instances for their work in restoring power after emergencies.

Rochester Gas and Electric spokeswoman Juanita Washington said only that the company is assessing its costs now, and will likely have more information next week.

Whatever assistance municipalities may end up getting, they're not waiting on the money to begin their work.

"For the ice storm, we did get (the money), but it takes a while," Nesbitt said. "We're going to have to front this money and labor for a long time before we get the check. It's a long process."


Source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2017/03/16/winter-storm-2017-town-costs-webster-greece/99250800/


 

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