Appeal Denied for Extended Reimbursement for Snow Costs

Though Gov. Maggie Hassan’s appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for an extension in its reimbursement for snow-fighting efforts has been denied, Derry Public Works Director Michael Fowler said this week that the denial will have no effect on him.

The blizzard of Jan. 26-28 closed schools, businesses and roads and saw Hassan give an unprecedented appeal for residents to keep calm and stay home. But the residual effects lasted well into February, as the magnitude of the January blizzard made subsequent storms difficult to deal with.

Hassan spokesperson William Hinkle said that while an extension was granted for removal of snow from the roofs of buildings, Hassan’s appeal to secure more funding to reimburse towns for the clearing of roads has been denied.

Fowler said in a phone interview that he met with FEMA and New Hampshire emergency management personnel. Fowler learned he would be reimbursed for the $94,000 he used to contend with the Jan. 26-28 storm.

Fowler said he had only asked for reimbursement for the 48 hours of the actual blizzard. “We had not counted on anything beyond that,” he said.

Fowler works from a bottom-line budget and had already planned to shift things around in what remains of his FY 15 budget.

If he gets the $94,000 reimbursement, he should meet the budget for FY 15, Fowler said, including some paving projects.

His “snow budget” for FY 15 is over $170,000, including all the storms. With the anticipated $94,000 reimbursement, he will have to find $76,000 somewhere in the budget, and he doesn’t see that as a problem.

The only other change that affected Derry was shifting the dates for the reimbursement so the period would begin Jan. 26, Fowler said.
On March 13, 2015, the State of New Hampshire submitted a request for both a major disaster declaration and an extension of the incident period for the state as a result of the Jan 26-28 snowstorm.

In March, the federal government granted a major disaster declaration for Rockingham, Hillsborough and Strafford counties for storm-related activities between Jan. 26 and Jan. 28, according to a press release from Hassan’s office. It granted Hassan’s request to extend the time period for removing snow from roofs, but denied her request for an extended timeframe to support snow removal activities, in particular the removal of snow from congested downtowns for public safety purposes, beyond the original 48-hour period.

But Hassan contended that the effects of the storm lasted well beyond those 48 hours.

She appealed the decision and was informed on April 16 that the appeal had been denied.

On May 11 Hassan wrote to FEMA, “The additional weather patterns occurring through Feb. 22 required an unprecedented response by state and local jurisdictions. The overall snowfall levels coupled with the continued storms forced local communities to drastically change how they provided snow response. Typically, communities plow the roads and then immediately remove (i.e., relocate) any snow that creates a safety concern. Under normal circumstances, this would have been completed within the approved 48-hour period. In this case, jurisdictions had not yet completed the removal of snow from the Jan. 26-28 storm prior to the additional snowfall brought in by the later storms.”

William Hinkle, communications director for the Governor’s office, confirmed that FEMA denied Hassan’s appeal in a letter dated May 14.