Dukes County towns can recoup Irene storm costs

Chilmark highway superintendent Keith Emin cut up a tree that fell on North Road during tropical storm Irene. — File photo by Susan Safford

Federal and state emergency agency officials briefed a group of Martha’s Vineyard and Gosnold representatives last week on how to apply for funds to cover costs for response and recovery efforts due to damage and losses from Tropical Storm Irene from August 27 to 29.

Expenses that may be reimbursed include equipment leased or purchased, overtime pay for public works personnel, labor costs for contractors hired, road repair, and emergency shelter set-ups and operations, to name a few.

A presidential disaster declaration on September 3 included public assistance for four counties in Massachusetts. On October 20 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) added Dukes County and four others to the eligibility list for Public Assistance (PA) grants.

Following FEMA’s announcement the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) scheduled briefings in those five counties to explain the reimbursement process in detail and provide the necessary forms.

MEMA Disaster Recovery Program Coordinator Lorraine Eddy conducted the briefing for Dukes County, held at the Steamship Authority offices the morning of October 27.

She said the PA grants provide supplemental financial assistance to state, local, and tribal governments, certain private nonprofit organizations, and also regional entities, such as the Dukes County government, school districts, and the State Police. Funding is cost-shared at a federal share of no less than 75 percent of eligible costs.

Island representatives who attended the meeting included Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain, Chilmark town accountant Emily Day, Gosnold administrator Ray PIckles, and Oak Bluffs director of emergency management Peter Martell, and interim town administrator Robert Whritenour.

Tisbury swelled the ranks with town administrator John Bugbee, Department of Public Works director Fred LaPiana, Police Chief Dan Hanavan, and selectman Jeff Kristal in attendance.

Ms. Eddy said the PA grants cover eligible costs for projects under seven categories: debris removal; emergency protective measures; road systems and bridges; water control facilities; public buildings, content and equipment; utilities; and parks and recreational.

Mr. Martell and Mr. LaPiana came to the meeting with projects already in mind. Mr. Martell’s list could be summed up in two words he brought up repeatedly during the discussion, “sea wall.” He said the storm definitely caused damage at the end of the sea wall on Ocean View Avenue heading towards State Beach.

In a conversation with The Times after the meeting, Mr. LaPiana said he was pleased to learn that overtime paid to public works personnel would be eligible for reimbursement. He said a crew of about five Tisbury public works employees worked nonstop for about 12 hours on August 28 to deal with downed trees on the roads.

Mr. LaPiana said he would also seek reimbursement of $1,500 for two new commercial grade chainsaws he purchased in preparation for the storm, and the cost of repairing a few drainage ponds and retention areas and re-grading Herring Creek Road.

Ms. Eddy also discussed a hazard mitigation grant program that provides funds for eligible mitigation measures in a community after a disaster.

MEMA Region II local coordinator Douglas Forbes and FEMA Public Assistance coordinator Larry Martin, environmental specialist Jo Ann Weinert, and public affairs officer Debra Young also participated in the briefing.