ROXBURY — Efforts are underway by two of three county emergency management agencies to learn how Tuesday’s blizzard affected storm management costs to determine if federal disaster relief should be sought.

Emails seeking preliminary estimates of costs associated with sand and salt usage and overtime from drivers was requested from towns in Oxford and Androscoggin counties.

The blizzard dumped more than two feet of snow in places.

At Wednesday night’s blizzard-postponed meeting, Roxbury selectmen said they only had sand and salt usage costs, not overtime costs, because they contract the work.

Teresa Glick, deputy director of the Oxford County agency in Paris, and Joanne Potvin, director of the Androscoggin County agency in Lewiston, said Thursday that they emailed officials in their towns on Wednesday.

Tim Hardy, director of the Franklin County EMA, said he hasn’t done that yet, because he’s waiting for official snowfall amounts from the National Weather Service to see if they exceed previous record snowfalls for his county.

Advertisement

All counties will gather information from their unorganized territories, whereas the Maine Department of Transportation usually submits its costs to the state, Glick said.

County EMA officials are gathering the information for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, which will seek disaster relief funds should county and state thresholds be met or topped. They will place the information on the state’s Damage and Injury Assessment Form, otherwise known as MEMA Form 7, Glick said.

The agencies must also meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2009 Snow Assistance Policy threshold.

“It’s pretty standard for a big weather event,” Glick said. “Overtime for drivers and sand and salt costs are typically what we see for winter storms. It’s not like flooding events.”

“It’s one of the first things we do,” Potvin said. “And if we don’t get anything back from our towns, it’s a good exercise on how to use Form 7, and if we do get something, then we know they’ve done their job.”

She said MEMA will collect the costs from all counties affected by the storm to determine if the state threshold of $1.87 million is met to qualify for disaster relief. Each county has its own threshold that is based on population and changes annually. Oxford’s is $205,000 and Androscoggin’s is $383,419.

Advertisement

Costs may be less across the state because many businesses and state agencies were closed and most residents stayed home, allowing road crews unfettered access, Glick said.

Additionally, “it was fairly quiet and we didn’t even have any power outages,” she said.

“To get ranked as a disaster, it has to meet thresholds. For example, flash flooding costs last year in Rumford didn’t meet federal or state threshold standards, so we didn’t get any funding assistance. So we’re collecting the information to see where we sit as a county, and the state looks at its numbers.”

Should thresholds be met, once that gets approved as a disaster, representatives from FEMA will conduct regional meetings in Maine so towns can get information and start working with FEMA on their projects.

“Typically, we do this after any disaster, but in the winter, it has to meet the snow policy,” Glick said.

Oxford County’s last winter disaster relief funding came for a winter storm in 2010 and the Patriot’s Day Storm of 2007.

Advertisement

Oxford County EMA Director Allyson Hill imposed a deadline of Friday, Feb. 6, for officials from the county’s towns to send her their costs. Potvin said she hasn’t set a deadline yet.

Both Hill and Glick said they are also waiting to get official snowfall amounts from the weather service, which should take a few days. The state hasn’t yet set a deadline for county responses.

In a related matter, Hardy said that MEMA Director Bruce Fitzgerald is working with FEMA to get its Snow Assistance Policy changed to better meet Maine’s needs, especially when it comes to ice storms.

“FEMA is working with us and they’re being pretty responsive,” he said.

The snow policy only involves snowfall amounts and not ice accumulations that cause hardships on counties and the state.

“It’s a long-term initiative,” Fitzgerald said Thursday afternoon in Augusta. “We’re trying to get them to provide assistance when a big storm isn’t snow. The adjustments would still allow for snowstorms and also recognizes ice when we don’t have any snow.”

Advertisement

For this blizzard, “we have to wait to find out if official snowfall totals set a new record or near-record,” he said.

“But with the Christmas Day ice storm last year, we did not get assistance because we didn’t get a record snowfall,” Fitzgerald said. “But we felt we had serious impacts from the ice event. The issue had to do with sand and salt, and because we didn’t have any snow, we didn’t get a declaration.”

He said MEMA did get a disaster declaration with the Ice Storm of 1998 because that happened before FEMA adopted its snow policy in 2009. Since then, MEMA got assistance with the Blizzard of 2013, because the snowfall broke records in Portland and other places.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.