The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Wednesday to approve an emergency resolution that will allow the mayor and department heads extensive powers to facilitate cleanup and damage control as a result of .
The resolution gives the mayor and department heads power to authorize all steps needed – including the allocation of expenditures, like the $100,000 the aldermen approved in the same meeting – to clean up the city; to purchase all necessary supplies and equipment; and to apply for state and federal aid in the wake of Irene’s destruction.
And that was immense.
“It was like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said. “It came in fast and it came in furious.”
The mayor reported that some thousands of homes sustained minor damage, several hundred homes suffered major damage and a few dozen were destroyed.
He also said that there were no major injuries reported and “thankfully, no loss of life – and that’s most important.”
Richetelli predicted the property damages will reach the “tens of millions of dollars” – mostly in private property. Public property suffered only some damages, including beach-end roads being washed away and damage to the Gulf Beach pier. The exact total has not been determined yet, though representatives from the Federal Emergency Maintenance Agency (FEMA) are helping city officials survey the damage.
City Looking to FEMA for Help
The help from FEMA will likely not end with help surveying the damage. The city – as part of New Haven County – will apply for a declaration of disaster from the federal agency. Initial damage assessments need to be sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office by Friday, Richetelli said.
Should New Haven County reach FEMA’s appropriate monetary loss threshold, a state of disaster will be declared for the region. This means FEMA would reimburse the city’s operating budget for 75 percent of what it spends in damage control.
The mayor said individuals may register with FEMA for relief as well. The relief will not come, however, until the county is declared a disaster state – a process that could take months, the mayor said.
He urged residents who suffered damage to immediately contact their homeowners insurance companies for aid if they have not done so already, and to photograph and note any damage. The same documentation can be used to get FEMA assistance.
There are currently 8,600 Milford United Illuminating (UI) customers – or 33 percent of the city’s households, according to the mayor.
“Power restoration is a major part of this and in the minds of many citizens,” he said.
Richetelli assured that the city is doing everything in its power to get the UI to move fast. “We’re on them morning, noon and night,” he said. City officials have been speaking to UI representatives three times a day to get status reports and to find out where the crews are.
There is a priority list set for restoring power, according to the mayor. The top of the list includes the fire and police departments, Milford Hospital, convalescent homes and the water treatment plant (for sanitation purposes). Then comes homes and buildings associated with special needs priority, followed by schools and then residents.
Richetelli was hopeful for residents, however. “We don’t want to raise any expectations about when the power’s going to be back on,” he said, ”but we hope at least half of those 8,600 get power in the next 24 hours.”
He added that residents looking for places to bathe are welcome at Planet Fitness and the Fitness Edge, and are welcome to charge cell phones and other appliances at the library and City Hall.
Other Important Information
As part of what the mayor described as a “massive cleanup initiative,” the following is being done:
- Residents don’t have to wait until September’s bulk pickup to get rid of their debris; the bulk pickup will be coming around the city continuously until it’s all cleaned up, the mayor said.
- The Emergency Operations Center is being manned 24 hours a day; and can be reached to report damage and other concerns at 203-874-6782 at any time.
- Residents can also visit 211ct.org – the state’s emergency website – to report damage to be considered for FEMA relief.
- Retired firefighter Bill Richards and the state’s Region Two representative for the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has been named the city’s relief coordinator.
Though the three-day weekend is approaching for most of Milford, the mayor emphasized he and city officials will not be taking advantage.
“I assure you, we are not taking a holiday,” he said.