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Dec 12, 2012 10:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sandy Will Cost Southampton More Than $2 Million

Dec 12, 2012 10:57 AM

By the time the bills are all tallied, the damage and cleanup from Hurricane Sandy is expected to cost Southampton Town more than $2 million, and damage to numerous private properties is likely to be much higher.

The bulk of the costs to the town are in salaries for town workers who put in long hours before, during and after the storm. Town Comptroller Len Marchese said that the bills have already totaled about $1.2 million and are expected to climb to more than $2 million once final bills from the Highway Department, which are likely to represent the largest chunk of the financial impact, come in.

The Highway Department bill is expected to be more than $900,000, according to Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor. The department is still ringing up tens of thousands of dollars a day for the cleanup effort, he said.

“We had quite a mess,” Mr. Gregor said this week. “Clearing Dune Road, rebuilding the dune west of Shinnecock Inlet, repaving a section of Dune Road. Hopefully, we’ll be reimbursed for all of it by the feds.”

He noted that when his crews started the actual clearing of debris from town neighborhoods, they had to hire dozens of outside contractors to assist them. The contractors have been costing the town some $34,000 per day since November 19, and Mr. Gregor anticipated that the cleanup effort would continue through December 20.

After last year’s glancing blow from Hurricane Irene, the Highway Department posted $430,000 in additional costs. Mr. Gregor estimated that this time the bills would be approximately double that. Irene cost the town a total of $1 million.

The Town Police Department incurred about $200,000 in overtime costs during and after the storm, and other departments saw about $150,000 in overtime costs.

The largest single chunk of the bills is expected to be the fees for dumping the thousands of tons of debris at landfills, which Mr. Marchese said are forecast at about $1 million.

The totals for the town are also substantially reduced by a donation from Bridgehampton builder Joe Farrell, who agreed to rebuild the bathroom pavilions at Mecox Beach and Scott Cameron Beach, which were destroyed by the storm, at no cost to the town.

The town will be submitting all of its bills from the storm preparation and recovery to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In a federally declared disaster event, FEMA typically reimburses municipalities for 75 percent of some recovery costs incurred and 87.5 percent of others, though total funds available and costs claimed by other municipalities will dictate the amount dedicated to each region. President Barack Obama submitted a request to Congress last week for some $60 billion in disaster aid to the Northeast for recovery from Sandy and projects that will protect hard-hit regions from future storms.

“There is never a complete guarantee, but the last time around we got what we expected,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the town’s FEMA reimbursement requests. “My understanding is that the state and feds intend to support the smaller municipalities. I think it is reasonable to assume we’ll be getting the reimbursement that we were promised.”

In the meantime, the town will pay for the cost of the cleanup with money from its reserved surplus, which Mr. Marchese said is about $13.5 million in the town’s general operating fund.

Last month, the town submitted a laundry list of steps it would like to take to mitigate the impacts of future storms. The $50 million proposal included $40 million worth of beach nourishment work to defend against storm surge and wave damage in the future and $10 million in upgrades to town facilities, like installing generators at all town buildings.

Mr. Gregor said that the repaving of a 900-foot section of Dune Road that was destroyed by the storm, near Tiana Beach, will actually end up saving the town a substantial amount on a project that it had planned to tackle anyway.

The town has been drafting plans for an estimated $7 million effort to raise all of Dune Road approximately 2 feet to alleviate chronic flooding. The driving waves and storm surge during Sandy washed out the roadway near Tiana but also deposited a thick layer of sand across the barrier island. By using the sand left by the storm to regrade the roadway, highway crews were able to repave the roadway at the height dictated by the planned project, saving more than $200,000 in the process. Repaving the stretch of road cost $89,000 but would have cost nearly $300,000 without using the sand left by the storm, Mr. Gregor said.

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