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$5.15M in repair funds for Sandy damage backed by Financiers

Updated 1:18 pm, Thursday, January 17, 2013

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  • Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo, left, and Chief of Staff Robert Mayer, answer question about funding for repairs needed after Superstorm Sandy. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo, left, and Chief of Staff Robert Mayer, answer question about funding for repairs needed after Superstorm Sandy. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Much like the U.S. House of Representatives had done earlier in the day, the Board of Finance on Tuesday authorized $5.15 million in bonding to repair public properties damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

Unlike the U.S. House, however, the finance board vote, after about three hours of discussion, was unanimous. The bonding package still must be approved by the Representative Town Meeting.

The town expects to get about 75 percent of the costs reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The work includes projects that range from repairing and elevating Penfield Pavilion to fixing the bathroom at Ye Yacht Yard.

Public Works Superintendent Scott Bartlett, however, cautioned that the full cost of certain projects may not be fully reimbursable.

For example, he said that not all of the sand that is now clogging the channel at Southport Harbor was deposited there by Sandy, so FEMA may only agree to reimburse a portion of the cost of re-establishing the channel, estimated to cost about $400,000.

"It's been my experience that FEMA is here to help, and they want to give us everything we're entitled to," Bartlett said. "I'm not telling them all the sand in Southport is from Sandy ... They'll do 75 percent of the Sandy impact."

Finance board members were particularly interested in the damage suffered by the Penfield Pavilion during the storm even though bulkheads were added to the waterfront building following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The pavilion -- its reconstruction was completed in 2011 at a cost of more than $5 million -- was undermined by Sandy's storm surge, buckling floors and railings

Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said that, in addition to making repairs to the pavilion, the funds will also cover an engineering analysis to determine why the latest damages occurred and if there were errors in the design.

Board member James Walsh questioned why the town did not have flood insurance coverage for Penfield Pavilion, but Chief of Staff Robert Mayer said flood insurance for the building was included in the town's overall policy.

There is, however, a $500,000 deductible, he said. Risk Manager Eileen Kennelly has confirmed that the insurance company will pay damage costs over the deductible amount up to $3 million. It is expected that FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of the deductible.

Also a concern for some finance members, particularly Walsh, was authorizing the entire $5.15 million when the town does not expect to spend all of the money. He and other board members said they did not want money being spent on projects other than those included in the resolution.

Mayer pointed out that the town will only actually bond the town's share, estimated to be around $1.2 million. He said without the full authorization, it could hamper the town's ability to seek bids on the repair projects since it won't be known for some time how much FEMA will reimburse.

Bartlett and Michelangelo said they want to get started on most of the projects before spring since they are on the town's waterfront.

"It's hard to argue against any of these," board member Kenneth Brachfeld said.

In approving the bonding authorization, the finance board amended the resolution to limit funding to projects to repair or improve structural aspects of public buildings and infrastructure damaged in the storm.

"The items are not ridiculous," Chairman Thomas Flynn said.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost