Warwick not eligible for FEMA financial help in repairing July storm damage

  • A washed out section of Chestnut Hill Road in Warwick following severe July rainstorms. Contributed Photo

  • A paved section of Flower Hill Road in Warwick that fractured following severe July rainstorms. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2021 5:20:27 PM

WARWICK — Three months after a July rainstorm caused significant damage to town roads, it has been determined that Warwick will not receive reimbursement grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover repair costs.

Warwick does not qualify for funding from FEMA “because the per capita loss caused by the event statewide was not high enough,” according to Town Coordinator David Young. He explained that the expenses “had to be underwritten at the state level,” and there was “not enough per person damage when calculated into the population of Massachusetts” for Warwick to receive FEMA funding.

“These are the FEMA rules and our funding died of them,” Young wrote in his coordinator report for Monday’s Selectboard meeting. “Now it is up to MEMA (the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) and the state to step up. For FEMA, we had to qualify at an absolute dollar level, and we did. We had to qualify at a county layer, and we did in Franklin County. One of the qualifiers is a dollar per person loss calculated statewide. That is the one we failed to meet.”

Other communities that incurred damage from the July rainstorm, and will also not receive assistance from FEMA, include Royalston and Northfield. Warwick worked with FEMA between August and October to document the damage to town roads.

Last month, Young estimated the cost for Warwick to fully repair the storm damage to be near $2 million. Repair efforts are ongoing. If the town had received the federal emergency disaster designation, Young said it would have been eligible for 75 percent reimbursement of the total repair costs.

Referencing flooding-related expenses in his coordinator report, Young said a recent study released by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump’s Office, “Public Infrastructure in Western Massachusetts: A Critical Need for Regional Investment and Revitalization,” adds justification to Warwick’s case.

“She notes a disparity that, if not addressed, these public infrastructure challenges will further exacerbate the commonwealth’s east-west divide,” Young said.

According to the 100-page report, the Division of Local Mandates sent a survey in late 2020 to all 101 communities in Western Massachusetts. Responses were received from 45 communities that show a deep need for continuing investment in infrastructure for roadways, buildings and broadband internet, and a lack of sufficient resources to meet that need.

Without support from FEMA, Young said one option for “recourse is to try and get the Legislature to designate some funds” to Warwick. The town plans to work with state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, to continue exploring other avenues for financial support, which Young said could come from state spending of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money.

He said Warwick’s options looking ahead could include delaying Chapter 90 expenditures on pavement, noting the Highway Department has delayed paving town roads until spring. He said the town could also explore emergency borrowing to be repaid over two years with approval from the state Department of Revenue.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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