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Selectmen back $5.2M to repair damage caused by Sandy

Updated 7:59 pm, Thursday, January 3, 2013
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A $5.2 million allocation to repair damage to public properties inflicted by Superstorm Sandy last October has won support from the Board of Selectmen

The funding, approved Wednesday by the selectmen, covers projects that range from repairing and shoring up Penfield Pavilion to cleaning debris left by the storm in Pine Creek.

It is expected that 75 percent of those costs will be reimbursed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, though at this point that remains in doubt because of inaction in Congress.

The local funding still must be approved by the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.

All of the projects, Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said, result from damage caused by the storm.

"They need to be rebuilt," Michelangelo said of the project punch list.

Some things, he said, will be repaired, while others, like the pavilion or the breaker wall at Southport Beach, need work that will improve their durability in future storms.

In the case of the breaker wall at Southport Beach, since it failed to hold during the storm, it should not be rebuilt with the same design.

"It failed, so to rebuild at the same elevation doesn't make sense," Michelangelo said.

The same holds true for Penfield Pavilion, recently rebuilt for about

$5 million to FEMA's standards for

100-year storms.

Michelangelo said officials are looking for an engineer to design repairs to the pavilion, which was undermined by the storm surge, causing floors and railings to buckle.

A second engineering firm will likely be hired to review the planned repairs.

"Given that this has failed once, we feel it's prudent to do this," Michelangelo said.

Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey asked if there were any projects on the list that wouldn't be done if it were known that there would be no FEMA reimbursement.

"There are none that I would take off," Michelangelo said, adding that some of the projects probably would have needed to be done even if there had been no storm damage.

"There's nothing there that we're doing that we're doing solely because someone else is paying for it," he said.

Selectman Kevin Kiley also asked if there was any ambiguity when it came to judging whether the projects were attributed to Sandy or not, and Michelangelo said there was not.

"Certainly, the lack of action in Washington has complicated things," First Selectman Michael Tetreau said. "The potential reality is we don't know if we're going to get the 75 percent reimbursement."

The selectmen also learned from Robert Mayer, the first selectman's chief of staff, that the town is awaiting proposals from consultants who are applying to help in preparing the town's FEMA reimbursement application.

Mayer said the consultant costs are reimbursable through FEMA, but said until the bids on the job are opened, it is not known whether the firms will charge on a percentage basis or an hourly fee.

"We're looking for someone with a cafeteria plan," Mayer said of the consulting options. "There are some things (Public Works Superintendent) Scott Bartlett knows cold, so we don't want to spend a lot of money on that."