Town Administrator Jonathan Butler answered questions at the Maple Grove Civic Club about the damage from Tropical Storm Irene.
ADAMS, Mass. — The town will be pushing to get road and culvert repair projects under way before winter and to take advantage of FEMA funding and loosened state regulations designed to fast-track fixes..
The damages from Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28 — just counting public-sector costs — are expected to be north of $2 million, most of which is expected to be reimbursed 75 percent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The damage we've assessed, the town of Adams will be on the hook for $2 million-plus in damage," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler told the Maple Grove Civic Club on Sunday. "But some of it will be reimbursed by FEMA ... Once all these projects are done and we are reimbursed by FEMA, [the total bill] will be south of a $1 million."
Butler described the storm as one of the worst in last half-century, "probably the biggest one we've had since the flood control system was built in the '50s."
He praised the town's first responders — the Alert Hose Company (which pumped out some 75 basements over two days), the police, Emergency Management Director Richard Kleiner, the Department of Public Works and the Forest Wardens (who filled in the gaps, said Butler: "The day of the storm, I'm glad we had Forest Wardens").
"The town could very easily have sustained a lot more damage and there could have very easily been a lot more harm done to people in those neighborhoods that were ravished if not for our emergency responders," he said. "Not a single person was injured as a result of the event and with all the dmage in town, I think that's a miraculous fact."
Butler, DPW Director Thomas Satko and Selectmen Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington spent two days documenting damage to town property, althouth Butler said there was "tremendous" damage to private property with homowners losing land and buildings along with flooding.
"A lot of damage that is going to put a lot pressure on people's pocketbooks," he said. "The town has trying tohelp those people facilitate through FEMA as much reimbursement as possible."
In some cases, the town didn't wait when it came to aidng homeowners. The neighborhood of Davis Street found itself cut off when the culverts separating it to Lime Street blew out. The road's never been accepted by the town but the town has plowed it and done minor repairs.
Irene caused three mudslides, including this one at Tophet Brook on East Road that came within 4 feet of a nearby home. A mudslide in 2005 on upper East Hoosac Street cost $250,000 to repair and stabilize.
"It wasn't a question of who's responsibility it is but it had to be fixed now," said Butler, to open up the road to for access for emergency personnel. "We decided if we were going to have a political fight over that, we'll have it after."
The Selectmen authorized emergency deficit spending within days of the storm to get projects rolling as soon as possible. Butler said there were six or seven major projects, including three mudslides that have to stabilized, damaged bridge and culverts and the dredging and cleaning of the drainage from Burt Street to Lime Street that overflowed and filled basements along Columbia Street.
The most immediate repair is the massive hole that opened over a 1952 culver at the top of Lime Street on East Road. Butler said the town learned last week that it can expect between 75 and 100 percent reimbursement for that repair because the roadway is considered a federal highway as a secondary road connecting North and South County. An order signed by Gov. Deval Patrick the day after the storm releases municipalities from the stringent (and expensive) Department of Environmental Protection permitting and allows for a faster bidding process.
Butler said once the final costs and reimbursements are toted up, the town will have to decide how to pay the bill. It will likely be through taxes, free cash, borrowing or a combination. The town administrator said his recommendation will be to borrow to prevent drawing down free cash or burdening taxpayers more.
The Maple Grove Civic Club, which was holding its first meeting since breaking for the summer in May. The club, which brings in a variety of speakers for its monthly dinner meetings and supports scholarships and other youth initiatives in Adams, welcomes new members. It meets at the PNA at 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of month.
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