Bush to extend snow-clearance fund

A snowy season may have sent some towns’ budgets into the red, but help from the federal government is on the way. At Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s request, President Bush has granted emergency aid to the entire state for the massive blizzard over the weekend of Jan. 22.

Because of Bush’s declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse state and local governments for 75 percent of the cost of emergency services, covering everything from equipment to overtime. According to a press release from Rell’s office, the storm cost the state government an estimated $3 million, though there is no collective estimate yet for the cities and towns. Mayoral spokesman Derek Slap said the storm had cost city agencies $146,784.

“The governor is grateful for this assistance,” Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said. “She thinks it will go a long way to ease some of the strain on overburdened state and municipal snow budgets.”

The state employed its entire fleet of 632 snowplows, along with 250 contractors, in the storm that covered parts of Connecticut in as much as 19 inches of snow, Rell’s press release noted. Rell said in the release that the money was especially necessary because bad weather might continue.

“This storm was the 10th of the season, and it’s a safe bet winter is not through with us yet,” she said. “We needed this aid, and I’m glad the president agreed.”

Slap said a 75 percent refund would amount to about $100,000 for New Haven, approximately one-fifth of the city’s total budget for snow-related work. Before the most recent storm on Monday, the city had run through 87.5 percent of its budget for snow removal.

For Dick Miller, the city’s director of engineering and public works, the news could not have come too soon. Plows were out this week on Presidents’ Day, and he said the cost of holiday overtime was considerable. He said the storm this weekend had exhausted his department’s funds for snow plowing and salting.

“Before this weekend, we were at just about ground zero,” Miller said. “This last storm put us over the hump in terms of having to spend more than we budgeted for.”

When the money comes through, the Department of Public Works is set to receive about $70,000, he said. Offering a tentative estimate, Miller said that the most recent storm had depleted half that amount, leaving the budget on track, if barely.

“It looks, considering that we’re 87.5 percent there, like without [the aid] we would most certainly go over the budget this year,” Slap said.

New Haven may yet see problems if the bad weather continues, Miller said. He said the city’s budgetary situation with regards to snow removal is precarious.

“It helps,” he said. “It pays for the storm we had. But if we start getting more snow, then there would be a real problem.”

Two snow plows clear Elm Street after a bout of wintry weather. Connecticut will receive emergency aid for the January blizzard that cost the state about $3 million. The refund equals one-fifth of New Haven’s budget for snow-related costs, but another snowstorm could cause financial problems.
Kari Rittenbach
Two snow plows clear Elm Street after a bout of wintry weather. Connecticut will receive emergency aid for the January blizzard that cost the state about $3 million. The refund equals one-fifth of New Haven’s budget for snow-related costs, but another snowstorm could cause financial problems.

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