By Nancy Guenther Chapman
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s so-called “rainy day fund” took a severe if temporary hit Tuesday evening due to the heavy winds and rain of October’s Superstorm Sandy.
The Common Council unanimously approved a $725,000 special appropriation from the contingency fund to cover Superstorm Sandy expenses for emergency response and debris removal. Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said at least 75 percent of that would be reimbursed by FEMA, hopefully before the audit that comes on June 30, at the end of the fiscal year.
The amount, which was approved at the Dec. 3 meeting of the Council’s Finance Committee, does not include money for damaged property, Hamilton said.
There was little debate on the amount. Councilwoman Anna Duleep (D-At Large) wondered how much of the $725,000 was attributable to the Island Belle, a Mississippi-style river boat that was docked at Veteran’s Park despite objections from Harbor Commission members and an order from the Army Corps of Engineers. The boat broke free from emergency personnel as Sandy came in, destroying the dock and drifting across the Norwalk River, where firefighters secured it to an old pier.
The city is working to gain reimbursement from Island Belle owner Ken Hart for damages. “We’re preparing to pursue that,” Corporation Counsel Bob Maslan told Duleep. He said expenses related to the Island Belle were “a very small portion of the $725,000.”
Emergency response expenses are included in the expenditure, but not damages, Hamilton said.
“It doesn’t include capital repairs,” he said. “If something was damaged and needed to be fixed – if it was a small item it might be in there. But the major capital items wouldn’t be in there.
Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-District D) said he understood FEMA is moving quicker than usual. Hamilton confirmed that.
“We’ll have to see,” he said. “What ends up taking a fair amount of time are the major projects. If there are major projects that you’re seeking reimbursement for, that can take months or sometimes years. But the debris removal and emergency response, which is what the appropriation tonight is about, they move pretty quickly. We’re coming close to finalizing our submissions to FEMA at this point.”
The fund balance is in relatively good shape, he said. Getting reimbursed by June 30 is “not a guarantee.”
Something new: FEMA is covering regular wages.
“Typically for debris removal they haven’t historically covered regular wages, they just covered overtime,” Hamilton said. “For this storm they are going to be covering regular wages for debris removal as well, which is a little unusual.”
Mayor Richard Moccia likes the sound of that.
“It’s interesting that FEMA finally came to the realization of paying straight time because obviously regular workers are not filling potholes two days after the hurricane,” he said. “They finally found the sense that they would pay for straight time for debris removal.”
Also approved by the vote was a $75,000 special appropriation to the historical commission to cover rental agreements.
Another vote authorized a special appropriation of $128,146 from the contingency fund to cover security expenses at Calf Pasture Beach and Oyster Shell Park.
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