Panel says mooring rates could remain status quo
The cost to fix the mess Hurricane Sandy made in Jamestown is still up in the air, the Harbor Commission learned at its Jan. 9 meeting. But it’s now clear that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not pick up the tab for most of the repair bills, according to Police Chief Ed Mello.
Meanwhile, Mello said, the Public Works Department has not started repairing any decking blown away in the hurricane. The town is still discussing repair estimates with FEMA.
During the meeting, Mello, the Harbor Department’s executive director, went into some specifics about the situation following an inquiry from the panel.
“FEMA’s probably going to cover the cost of most of the damage, aren’t they?” Commissioner Larry Eichler asked.
“No,” Mello replied.
Mello said federal representatives have been helpful, but the U.S. government will cover only 75 percent of the repairs at the East Ferry pier. Also, questions remain to be answered about how the 75 percent is calculated.
“FEMA’s got a couple of different paths,” Mello said. He indicat- ed one option would be to pay “75 percent based on the estimate, regardless of who’s doing the work.” That option would allow Jamestown to use its Public Works Department to repair the decks and the electrical systems at the pier.
“The town’s going to put together an invoice?” Eichler asked, wondering if FEMA will compensate the department for labor and materials spent on repairs.
Mello could not say for sure because FEMA’s other option would be to compensate the town only for out-of-pocket expenses. That would mean FEMA would pay if Jamestown hires a contractor to do the work. If the town uses its own workers, the expenses may not be eligible for federal reimbursement. That question is still to be decided, Mello said. “We’re going to look at both paths.”
If the town decided to use its own workers, Eichler wondered, would FEMA reimburse Jamestown for Gray’s time “putting together an estimate?”
Again, Mello said he could not say.
“They don’t always pay administrative costs,” he said.
He also didn’t have an estimate about the repairs needed at Fort Getty.
Federal policy is not to reimburse the harbor office for damage to any assets on land, such as roads and even seawalls, Mello said.
According to Mello, the Harbor Department’s land asset that has been left in the worst shape is the Fort Getty access road. Fortunately, the storm did little damage to the East Ferry seawall project underway. Mello reported previously that the state Department of Transportation is paying for the other seawall repairs north of the boat ramp.
FEMA will contribute nothing toward the damage at the Fort Getty access road, Mello said.
Harbor Chairman Michael de Angeli asked Mello why the town can’t get any help with the access road repairs. “How did that happen?” de Angeli asked.
Mello said communities can’t underwrite roadways and FEMA won’t do asphalt replacement. He added that the agency also took into consideration the fact that the access road was in rough shape before the storm.
“The road was in disrepair to begin with,” Mello said.
In other business, the commissioners started to go over the draft budget for the new fiscal year starting July 1. Commissioner Chris Brown said he made a “conservative estimate” and projected revenues and expenses of $226,000, up from $210,000 this year.
Eichler questioned whether the commissioners would have to raise mooring fees this summer to cover the budget increase. The Harbor Commission’s budget is fi- nanced by mooring fees and other user fees.
But Brown said the draft budget assumes the mooring fees are staying the same, and de Angeli concurred.
Mooring fees went up two years ago, the commissioners said, and de Angeli and Brown indicated the panel will try to hold the line on them.
“This should be a safe number,” de Angeli said, looking at the $226,000 figure. “We anticipate a slight addition in several categories. It’s not quite apples to oranges.”
On the expenditure side, Eichler questioned the harbormaster’s salary, which shows an increase between 10 and 15 percent. Mello said the harbormaster’s union contract expires July 1, and the increase in that line item represents an estimate “based on what a union increase may be.”
Eichler also questioned the estimate for channel markers and buoys.
“I thought we were done with that this year,” he said.
“Not even close,” replied Harbor
Clerk Kim Devlin.
The town replaced four in 2012, but all the channel markers and buoys have to be brought up to Coast Guard regulations.
“We just tackled the worst of the worst,” Devlin said. The town also added conservation buoys, which will add to maintenance costs. “We also have to mark them with reflective tape, which is very expensive,” she said.
Brown asked if the budget estimate included the swimming buoys at Mackerel Cove. Devlin replied it did not, but the Recreation Department took care of the buoys at the barrier beach.
The Harbor Commission will meet Friday, Jan. 19, to go over long-term budget projections for capital-improvement projects and infrastructure repairs. Much of the money the commissioners planned to use on infrastructure is now expected to be eaten up for Hurricane Sandy repairs.
Mello said by Friday the panel should “have a much better handle” on the FEMA contributions and the actual costs of repairs.