Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, the Fair Lawn Borough Council received some of the numbers on the storm’s overtime costs, as well as a report on the federal funding that might lessen the burden on taxpayers.
The good news reported Tuesday night was that no insurance claims need to be filed on borough property, as the town saw no damage to buildings. The borough did lose 36 shade trees, but manager Tom Metzler pointed out that only one of those needed to be cleared by a private contractor.
“A very large part of the success in the number of trees we were able to take care of by our own staff was the fact that we didn’t have flooding going on. We literally transferred everybody into Shade Tree,” he reported to the council.
And, he says, many of the costs of working staff extra hours to expedite the recovery will be absorbed by FEMA grants. The borough racked up about $150,000 in overtime costs during the recovery of the storm. But those expenses, along with a 30-day period of regular time (the beginning and end date of which the borough is yet to determine), will be reimbursed by the federal government.
Officials said grant money will cover some of the ongoing storm-related labor costs, as well as subsidize 10 workers that the borough is yet to hire through an emergency unemployment relief program.
“If there is a Fair Lawn resident who is currently unemployed as a direct result of this storm, or has been on unemployment for 13 weeks or more, they can apply through the county...they will go into a pool of people who are federally funded for to $12,000 and they’ll be hired to help with clean up,” Metzler said.
The borough was overall pleased with the handling of the storm, but Metzler added that some mitigation projects will be proposed in its after-action report, such as the installation of a generator at the borough’s DPW site. The borough hopes some of these costs will also be funded through FEMA grants.
Outreach to residents during the storm was also discussed, and Mayor Jeanne Baratta compared the borough’s efforts favorably with Irene. “I think our communication was a lot better this time,” she said.
One improvement the borough may try to make toward their communication with residents is updating their contact information for senior citizens in the borough. Metzler said that a special effort was made to check in with senior citizens, and that residents with special needs were contacted twice during the storm.
The borough also encourages all residents to sign up for emergency notifications. They added over 400 cell phone numbers to their list this time around, but agreed that more can be done to expand the list of residents the borough can keep in touch with during the next crisis.
Baratta said that one of the best things the borough could do, especially in the midst of confusing information from the utility company, was keep in touch with residents.
“I don’t think Fair Lawn has seen an outage of this magnitude ever,” the mayor said. “And I think a lot of people who called and were upset...as soon as they got a reassuring phone call it eased their anxieties.”