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Springfield Receives More FEMA Money For 2011 Tornado


It has been nearly five years since a powerful tornado tore through western Massachusetts and the city of Springfield is still settling up financially with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The city announced a $13.8 million grant from FEMA Monday as compensation for the destruction of a neighborhood community center during the tornado on June 1, 2011.  The federal agency had initially rejected the city’s $18 million damage claim, but after several appeals – and nudges from Congressman Richard Neal – a settlement was reached.

" FEMA has done very well by the city and I've said that a number of times," Neal said Monday.

FEMA has awarded Springfield a total of $38.7 million to compensate for what the city claims was $95 million in damage done to public property by the tornado. The city still has appeals pending totaling another $10 million.

Neal had vowed to seek federal funds to rebuild the areas of the city devastated by the storm, and five years later he described the recovery as “remarkable.”

The funds for the latest FEMA grant to Springfield came from the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city will continue to press FEMA to obtain “every dime” of disaster aid the city is due.

" It is tedious and time consuming and we are coming up on the fifth anniversary," said Sarno.

Sarno said the city will use the latest FEMA grant to pay to construct a new South End Community Center in a different location than the one that was destroyed, and to build a new senior center.  The city has advanced the money for both projects and has already awarded a $10.3 million construction contract for the community center.

FEMA has not been the only source of disaster recovery money for Springfield.  T.J. Plante, the city’s chief finance officer, said a total of $340 milllion has come from various federal and state agencies to rebuild schools, parks, and low-income housing destroyed by the tornado.

Plante said Springfield has borrowed $50 million to jumpstart many of the recovery projects.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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