Towns looking for FEMA funds for storm damage

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FAYETTE — It has been an unforgettable winter for Maine towns, which have struggled to keep up with the never-ending parade of ice and snowstorms, with large doses of cold weather thrown in.

An ice storm in late December crippled the region, causing massive power outages just in time for Christmas and treacherous roads.

“That ice storm that we had, I think it was worse than the ’98 ice storm as far as road conditions,” said Fayette Town Manager Mark Robinson last week. “This has been a tough winter.”

The town put in a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster relief funding because of the ice storm, with the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) advocating on the town’s behalf. However, a change in FEMA policy refused to recognize the use of sand and salt, plow trucks, and the delivery of sand and salt.

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“It makes zero sense that FEMA would adopt this policy,” said Robinson. He added that it “critically hurts” local governments trying to keep safe passage for public ways.

Last month, the town purchased 1,000 yards of sand from Adam Castonguay’s pit. Robinson said that right now, Fayette has 2,000 yards of sand/salt and 3,500 tons of pure salt.

“I think we’re pretty well set for the remainder of the winter,” he said. “However, we’ve maxed out our budget. We’re down to reduced staff in non-storm events.

“We’re really hoping for that FEMA money,” he added. “If that doesn’t come through, we’re looking at being overexpended on our budget by the end of the year. We’re keeping the roads safe and passable. That’s our obligation.”

Robinson said that he expected to know whether or not the town would be getting federal funds for the storm by the end of this week.

Livermore is also feeling the effects of the severe weather. Recently, said Administrative Assistant Kurt Schaub, the town purchased 1,500 additional yards of sand. A total of 3,500 yards was purchased in the fall.

The town also had to buy additional salt to replenish the salt and sand pile. A total of $12,000 was spent on the additional salt, and $10,875 on the additional sand.

During the December ice storm alone, Livermore used about 1,000 yards of sand, costing a little more than $6,000. It used 60 tons of salt, or about $3,400. The town is applying for FEMA funding, but had yet to hear back from the agency as of Monday.

“In this area, we’re all into our budget for next year,” said Schaub. “It pays to know where we stand on big ticket items.”

He added that he expected to hear back from FEMA sometime this week.

During the December ice storm and the rain/ice storms following it, “We were hearing from our residents left and right that we weren’t putting anything down on the roads,” said Schaub. “We were putting everything down we could think of, and it wasn’t working.”

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