Southampton Town officials are hoping that state and federal reimbursements will cover most, if not all, of the mounting costs related to cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy, making repairs and replacing destroyed equipment and facilities.
At a Town Board work session Thursday with department heads, officials discussed the measures being taken to offer relief to town residents, to ensure that beaches and facilities are up and running for the summer season and to maximize the amount of money Southampton recovers from FEMA and state agencies.
“Right now, the amount of aid eligible under this event is set at 75 percent federal aid," explained Town Comptroller Len Marchese. "The state has not indicated how much aid they’re going to kick into this yet. The state has requested from the federal government to increase the portion from 75 to 90 percent of whatever's eligible, and if they did that I think the state would probably kick in the other 10 percent, and maybe hold us harmless.
"But none of this is guaranteed," Marchese continued. "It’s been that way in the past, but given the severity of the storm and the amount of claims that are coming into the state, we’re not sure what the funding level will be.”
Wherever possible, the town will have to put in for an insurance claim before getting anything from the federal government and state, he said.
Marchese said the last reimbursement checks related to 2011's Tropical Storm Irene came in two months ago, but he cannot estimate how long it will take New York to send out Sandy-related checks. “The state hasn’t had this many claims ever,” he said.
Superintendent of Parks & Recreation Chris Bean said that on Sunday two teams from the New York State Office of Emergency Management toured 25 town facilities damaged or destroyed by Sandy.
“We’ve already started rebuilding and renourishing our beaches," Bean said. "The Tiana area is just about completely restored with sand.”
The Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management provided two payloaders and a bulldozer for that work in Hampton Bays, he said. More work is still to be done, he added, including pumping cesspools and rebuilding decks.
Mecox Beach and Scott Cameron Beach in Bridgehampton were “completely destroyed,” Bean said. Sand has already been deposited on the beach by a company that is also bringing in sand for oceanfront homeowners, he said, adding that the sand still needs to be cleaned of debris.
Farrell Building Co., based in Bridgehampton, has offered to rebuild the pavilions at the Bridgehampton beaches. “They hope to have these things rebuilt by the first of the year,” Bean said.
The company's donations are considered in-kind payments, he said. "It's really a double win for the town, because we not only gets the facilities rebuilt, but we have the money counted toward our share of the reconstruction of the destroyed properties."
“We will be up and running as usual next summer,” Bean added.
Chief Building Inspector Mike Benincasa said the building department is waiving fees for homeowners making repairs, though it will look to get those lost fees reimbursed.
“Some of it is going on without permits, here and there, and I think rightfully so," he said.
The department is helping people through the process, Benincasa said, and omitting some of the minor requirements, such as new surveys.
“The important thing is to get houses secured [and] boarded, so no further damage occurs ..." he said. "Now’s not the time to bog people down in red tape, make them wait; so we’re going to do everything we can to expedite their requests.”
Benincasa said that, due to a shortage of emergency housing, disaster response officials are looking to make storm-ravaged homes habitable again as quickly as possible.
FEMA “sends a team of contractors — a plumber, electrician, carpenter and FEMA rep — to assess the damage and what minimal repairs can be made to get the occupants or homeowners back in," Benincasa said.
Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that Southampton was spared the worst of the storm, but needs to be ready when the East End someday gets hit as bad at Sandy hit western Long Island.
“No one was prepared for this storm anywhere, and I think we need to recognize the fact that this is not a 100-year event anymore," Throne-Holst said. "These things are probably going to be far more frequent with changes in weather and climate and rise in sea level.”