Damage assessment

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Beacon Falls, Naugatuck submit preliminary requests to FEMA

Heavy winds during a storm in May toppled the fence around the tennis courts at Naugatuck High School. Municipalities impacted by the storm have started to submit preliminary requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement for costs related to the storm. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Local officials have started to put a price tag on the damage done by last month’s powerful storm in hopes of reaping some federal funds.

Four tornadoes touched down in six towns in the state during a severe storm on May 15, including an EF1 tornado with winds of up to 110 mph that ran 9.5 miles between Beacon Falls and Hamden.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik said the town submitted a preliminary request for $835,000 as part of a statewide request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. About $600,000 of that request is the cost for the work to clean up fallen trees, Bielik said.

“If you drive around town, what you’ll see is there is a substantial amount of cleanup to be done,” Bielik said.

FEMA officials last week began assessing damage from the storm in the state. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy may issue disaster declarations based on the assessments, which could lead to federal aid for repairs and cleanup if President Donald Trump approves.

“We are committed to stay here as long as it takes to accomplish this mission,” FEMA spokesman Diego Alvarado said.

Bielik said local officials showed FEMA representatives the damage around town. In order for the state to qualify for aid from FEMA, there has to be a minimum of $3.1 million of damage per county affected and at least $5.2 million of damage statewide, according to Bielik.

Bielik said FEMA will only pick up the cost of what insurance companies don’t. He recommended that homeowners continue with their cleanup and file their insurance claims.

The effects of the storm could still be seen around Beacon Falls last week. Matthies Park, which is located off Rimmon Road, remained closed as of press time last week due to branches and trees that are hanging and could fall, Bielik said.

The town also issued a request for proposals to remove debris from town properties and public rights of way because it’s more than the public works department could do alone.

“The sheer volume is so much more we can handle by ourselves,” said Bielik, who expects the cleanup effort to take months to finish.

Although not on the same scale as Beacon Falls, the storm also did significant damage in Naugatuck. The borough has filed a preliminary request for $41,940 with FEMA, according to Naugatuck Public Works Director James Stewart.

Debris removal made up the largest part of the request. According to the application the borough filed with FEMA, there were at least 60 locations throughout Naugatuck that had trees down that were blocking roads. There was also damage to the fence and shed at the borough’s transfer station on Rubber Avenue, according to the application.

Kevin Dion, director of facilities for Naugatuck Public Schools, said there was significant damage around borough schools, but none of the buildings were damaged.

At Naugatuck High School, the fence that surrounded the tennis courts blew over, a tree fell on the batting cage by the baseball field, and a branch hit the fence at the entrance of the high school. There was also significant tree debris on the walkway between the high school and Western Elementary School, and at Cross Street Intermediate School.

Dion said the district didn’t have an estimate on the cost to fix the fence as of last week, but estimated the cost of the tree cleanup at $15,000.

In Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, a power surge during or after the storm fried the control panels and motors to the elevators at Woodland Region High School. The cost to fix the elevators is $48,814, and the Board of Education awarded the contract for the work last week.

In total, nearly $60,000 in damages occurred at Region 16 schools, including minor damage to the roofs at Long River Middle School and Woodland, Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said.

The damage in Region 16 isn’t part of Beacon Falls’ request. School officials decided to pay for the work with money from this fiscal year’s budget, rather than go through insurance and risk an increase in insurance costs.

The storm left Prospect relatively unscathed. Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said the town is likely not going to file a claim with FEMA because there was no real monetary damage.

“We dodged a bullet. We really, really dodged a bullet,” Chatfield said.