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FEMA ice storm reimbursement period begins

FEMA representative Sarah Wolfe addresses the crowd Wednesday at the Farmer's Room at the Nobles County Government Center.

WORTHINGTON -- The clock has started.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) met Wednesday morning and afternoon with officials from townships, cities and schools from Nobles County in separate meetings.

"This kickoff meeting is the official start of the ticking clock for identifying damages to FEMA," said Sarah Wolfe, public assistance officer for FEMA. "You have 60 days from today to identify all of your damages to FEMA. A normal disaster is 90 days. We're looking at a 30-day timeline to try to expedite this."

The goal of condensing the timeline to 30 days is to get the money out quicker.

"That should expedite the process of writing those projects, getting them through the review cycle and getting the money back out to the different townships, which is really what the program is about," Wolfe said.

Wednesday marked the second of three official meetings.

"The first one was the applicants briefing, which was hosted by the state," Wolfe said, referring to the May 14 meeting. "The second one is this one -- the kickoff meeting -- which is kind of your first substantial meeting with FEMA. The final one is the exit briefing, which you'll have with FEMA when we kind of hand you back over to the state."

According to Wolfe, most of the damage caused by the April ice storm was done in two categories, A and B.

"Category A is debris removal, which I'm sure everybody has," Wolfe said. "Category B is what we call emergency protective measures. That's going to be anything from the generators that you needed to use from your emergency response, if you're operating an extra call center, if you had shelters open, if you did some feeding of guys who were out working long hours. It's anything you did above and beyond for your township or cities during that emergency period."

Those two categories are referred to as emergency work.

"When we talk about emergency work, we talk about two things in particular," Wolfe said. "One, we talk about the work you did during the immediate aftermath. We're talking about six months as the regulatory timeframe, so work you had to do right away."

During the meeting, Wolfe answered questions and discussed what is eligible for debris removal.

"We're looking at the work that was done to clear the roads, we're looking for work that was done if you have a dangerous hanger," Wolfe said. "If a tree has either lost 50 percent of its crown or is leaning over 30 percent, we're looking at cutting it flush."

She explained that stump grinding and tree trimming is not eligible.

"When we talk about debris and we talk about a lot of tree damage, we really have to go back to remember there has to be an immediate threat," Wolfe said. "If you choose to go back and remove those stumps and grind them, that's not a cost we can cover. I'm not going to tell you that you can or can't do that -- you can do what you want."

Most covered costs are associated with safety and preventative measures.

"The other thing we don't cover is tree trimming for cosmetic purposes or ... for survival of the tree," Wolfe said. "If you have a hanging branch, you just cut that dangerous hanger off. If you choose to go back later and do something to make the tree look pretty for cosmetic, that would be something -- since there is no immediate threat, that wouldn't fall under our program."

For entities with damaged roads, those costs can also be recovered.

"The road damages that are eligible for this event ... were caused by the big, heavy electrical trucks or other emergency response vehicles you may or may not have had going out to restore power," Wolfe said.

The work done by each entity -- for both regular and overtime hours -- can be claimed.

"One of the alternate public assistance procedures, under the new Sandy legislation, is allowing us to pay regular time for in-house labor or regular debris removal hours as well as overtime debris removal hours," she said.

Each entity was paired with a project specialist who will work to get specifics about each cost.

"As you go through your specific records with your project specialists, you'll get into the meat and potatoes of the work you actually had," Wolfe said.

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.