Warwick seeking FEMA financial help for damages incurred in July rainstorms

  • 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: 8/17/2021 3:35:59 PM

WARWICK — The town is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess the full extent of the damage and subsequent repair costs incurred from last month’s rainstorms to gauge the town’s eligibility for reimbursement grants.

Town Coordinator David Young said the town filed an application for financial assistance from FEMA, and he asked residents to share photos they took of the damage for extended documentation. Town officials met with a FEMA representative on Monday to discuss the damage to public facilities, “which in our case equals roads — public roads,” Young said.

Speaking Tuesday, he said the town is still in the process of gathering final information.

“FEMA noted a lot of damage, and was reasonably impressed with our documentation to date,” Young said.

Young hopes the level of detail the town is providing will improve its chances of being approved for financial assistance. By establishing a state of emergency last month, Young explained the Warwick Fire, Police and Highway departments are able to charge flood-related spending to emergency accounts, allowing them to distinguish flood-related expenses if the town is eligible for reimbursement. However, Young said he cautioned department heads to spend as though they would not be reimbursed because there is no guarantee.

“We realize if we don’t get a disaster designation, it’s all on the town,” Young said. “It could devastate our budget.”

Final assessments are still being done, but Young said the storm is estimated to have caused up to $1.5 or $2 million in damage. He said FEMA reimbursement grants cover 75 percent of spending, which would leave Warwick responsible for the remaining 25 percent. Young said the town has spent tens of thousands for gravel material, trucking, Highway Department overtime, police detail and other required costs.

While Young is not sure when the town will hear final word on whether it will be partially reimbursed by FEMA, Young said he is “a bit of optimist” and thinks Warwick will meet the requirements.

“As I look around the country, this stuff is happening increasingly, and we have to find a way to get ahead of it,” Young said of the severe storm patterns.

In addition to working with FEMA, Young said the town previously met with state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to discuss support for storm damage on the state level. Despite reviewing similar information, Young noted that FEMA needs to “come in and audit the damage with their own eyes, so to speak.”

Warwick officials took Comerford and FEMA representatives on a tour of the roads in town that were most severely damaged by the rainstorms. Young said this included the area of Barber Hill, Leland Hill Road, Flower Hill Road, Chestnut Hill Road and two water crossings over Darling Brook near the intersection of Hockanum Hill Road and Wendell Road.

The town is still under the state of emergency put in place after the storms a month ago, and Young said he will update the Selectboard on the latest status of road repairs and the lasting state of emergency during the board’s Aug. 23 meeting.

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


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