Fed Lends a Hand with Snow Removal
By Charlie Deitz
Western Massachusetts – Today's light snowfall was welcome news for town managers in Western Massachusetts, many of which are already over budget on snow removal costs this winter. WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reports that several Massachusetts counties are in line for federal snow removal assistance, while the state gave itself a 50 million dollar raise to handle the cost.
The January 12th blizzard that swatted the Northeast left most towns in Berkshire County under 2 feet of snow with many getting up to three feet like the high altitude town of Florida with a population of 700, whose Town Administrator Christine Dobbert spent Friday morning trying to figure out just how much they spent over three days trying to remove the stuff.
"We have estimated it at 30 thousand dollars."
She's preparing receipts from that time period to send them over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, because this month Governor Patrick's request for emergency funding was approved for the counties of Berkshire, Hampshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Middlesex. Which means that 75 percent of costs accrued for the January 12thstorm get reimbursed from the fed. Peter Judge is the Public Information Officer with the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, he's been holding trainings through out the state to show the 6 counties just how to apply for the money, he says most counties get to bill for 48 hours but Berkshire County was special.
"Unique in that they'll get a 72 hour period, the other counties get 48 hours."
So the town of Florida will get around 22,500 dollars, North Adams plans on about 47 thousand dollars back. But that reimbursement is just a fraction of what towns have had to lay out over the course of the winter so far. Pittsfield, with a snow removal budget of 520 thousand is sitting at about 1.35 million dollars in costs so far, not including this latest storm that passed through.
And Dobbert says Florida was just under its 170 thousand dollar snow budget, until today.
"We had to go out and treat roads,today might have put us over."
This week the state legislature approved a 320 million dollar spending plan that included 50 million dollars for the state to back feed snow and ice removal funds, but a republican push for 25 million dollars in local aid to cities and towns for snow removal was rejected, here's Democratic representative Smitty Pignatelli
"It was soundly defeated, we're in a tight budget time."
Peter Judge says it's rare for the state to release emergency snow spending, but this winter merited the expense.
Towns that go into the red on snow removal are permitted to deficit spend and generally roll the costs into next year's budget. Just over the border in new York, FEMA approved emergency funding to help towns in Dutchess county with damage incurred during the December 26th storm.