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Town works with FEMA to recover from October flooding

Road wash-outs, like this one on Captain Road in Longmeadow, were reported across the region the weekend of Oct. 14 - 16. Reminder photo by Natasha Clark
By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor

WILBRAHAM Repairs are continuing to the 14 town roads damaged during the heavy rains that hit Western Mass. Oct. 14-16.

And assistance paying the bill for those repairs is in the works.

According to Department of Public Works Director Ed Miga, FEMA made its first assessment of the damage to town roads during a meeting on Oct. 31.

"When we reached about $250,000 [the representative] said he was short on time and had to move on to Springfield and would be back," Miga said.

According to a FEMA press release supplied to Reminder Publications by Wilbraham Town Administrator William Fogarty, the agency expects to begin briefings with local officials regarding its Public Assistance Program (PA) in the near future.

Information on the FEMA web site indicates the PA program will provide supplemental Federal disaster grant assistance to cover 75 percent of the cost of repairs to a city or town's roads, bridges, dams and public buildings, provided the damage repairs meet FEMA's criteria for reimbursement.

President George W. Bush recently authorized FEMA assistance for areas of Massachusetts damaged in the October flooding through a Major Federal Disaster Declaration.

Miga also told Reminder Publications that local officials expected to meet with representatives from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in Springfield on Nov. 17 to discuss filling out the forms necessary for storm damage reimbursement.

MEMA coordinates federal, state, local, voluntary and private resources in response to emergencies and disasters in Massachusetts.

"It's my understanding that [the process] is going to be the same as filing for snow events," Miga said.

Meanwhile, the town has already drawn on its stabilization fund to pay for road and infrastructure repairs. At the Special Town Meeting scheduled for Nov. 29., the DPW will request a $500,000 appropriation to complete the work. "We're like Longmeadow, we're going to [the townspeople] asking to appropriate $500,000 to fix storm damage; we've certainly spent that much already," Miga said.

In an Oct. 24 story about the storm damage, Miga gave Reminder Publications an estimate to repair the storm damage of "well over $100,000."

Miga said any storm damage spending reimbursement from MEMA would be used to replenish the town's stabilization fund.

FEMA help for homeowners

According to Wilbraham Fire Chief Fran Nothe, between 30 and 50 town residents reported damage or requested assistance for their residences following the October storm.

"It was probably a higher number than that; a lot of people did not report damage," he said.

Town Administrator William Fogarty told Reminder Publications his office is directing townspeople with storm-related housing or business damage to contact FEMA directly to apply for help through their Individual Assistance Program.

"They are dealing with homeowners directly," he said. "[FEMA] has certain criteria regarding what type of damage is eligible."

Fogarty said it would be inefficient for FEMA to train each city and town to process the information necessary for reimbursement.

Fogarty said individuals and business owners can teleregister with FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA(3362). Hearing or speech-impaired individuals requiring TTY assistance can register by phone at 1-800-462-7585. Online registration is also available at Information on the FEMA web site dated Nov. 15 indicates the teleregistration lines will be open 24/7 until further notice.

According to the press release provided by Fogarty, assistance coordinated through MEMA and FEMA can include grants for housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and possibly other assistance.

Chief Nothe told Reminder Publications he believed FEMA assistance will probably be in the form of low-cost loans.

The FEMA web site also counsels applicants to be accurate in the information they provide to ensure they do not miss out on aide.

Some applicants have misinterpreted the question, "do you have damage to your dwelling" because they have already repaired the storm damage, did not think that septic tank and primary well damage, or landscape erosion that threatens the stability of their dwelling were applicable situations.

For complete clarification of damage questions, visit and type in 1614-004 under search FEMA to read the news release.