Blumenthal, Murphy view snow cleanup efforts in New London, Norwich
Just 12 hours after New London’s Mountain Avenue was cleared of snow Friday, the city’s mayor and the state’s two U.S. senators walked the cleared roadway to get a firsthand look at the monumental task that public works crews have faced since the Monday-Tuesday blizzard dropped more than 2 feet of snow on the region.
“At 2 a.m. you couldn’t move down this street, there were huge moguls,” Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio told Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both D-Conn, as heavy equipment continued to clear an intersection a little farther down the street.
With 40 percent of the city’s schoolchildren “walkers” — meaning they walk to school — the mayor said it was too dangerous to have them back in the classroom Friday. By Monday, roads and sidewalks will be passable for students, but Finizio said with the possibility of another 4 to 10 inches of snow in the forecast, there could be new complications.
After a morning meeting with the city manager and public works director in Norwich, the senators stopped in New London to assess the condition of city streets and meet with the mayor about possible federal aid.
Earlier Friday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state has formally requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conduct an assessment in New London, Tolland, and Windham counties to determine if federal assistance may be available.
“I’m hopeful that a case can be made,” Blumenthal said on Mountain Avenue, as neighborhood children sledded on a nearby hill and residents watched the news conference from porches and windows.
“It has to be demonstrated that it is a record snowfall and that certain conditions have been met,” he said.
Murphy explained that in addition to a record snowfall, a municipality must show that it has greatly exceeded its planned budget.
Finizio said New London has been too busy dealing with the snow to take time to calculate snow-removal expenses but will do that soon.
He added that while he may not know the exact number in the city’s snow-removal budget or the expenses incurred to date, he does know what streets are next up on the snow-removal priority list.
“We handle the calls as they come in,” he said, and added, the city is fortunate that power was not knocked out during the storm.
In Norwich, Public Works Director Barry Ellison told the senators that a third to half of the city’s $400,000 annual snow budget has been consumed cleaning up after the recent storm. Federal financial assistance would be welcomed, he said, as city crews labored on Friday morning’s minor nuisance storm and continued to work clearing huge snow banks from congested urban areas.
Two crews will continue that effort in downtown, Taftville and Greeneville on Saturday, Ellison said, as the storm Finizio referenced could hit the region Sunday night and Monday.
While in Norwich, the senators were impressed by the 22-foot high, 90-foot wide, 40-foot-deep snow “mountain” on the Viaduct parking lot downtown.
When asked why New London hasn’t asked for additional outside help, beyond that rendered by the city of Bridgeport earlier in the week, Finizio said city streets are so narrow that bringing in more help, such as the National Guard, would “just clog it up.”
And he added that Electric Boat supported the cleanup effort in Fort Trumbull in an effort to get its employees back to work there on Wednesday.
“This was a devastating storm for parts of our state that many cities and towns are still recovering,” Malloy said in making his announcement about seeking possible federal aid. “This assessment is the first step in the process of securing possible federal assistance for those communities that were hit the hardest.”
Once preliminary assessments are complete, Malloy will determine whether a major disaster declaration request should be made. If it is made and granted, FEMA would cover 75 percent of eligible costs, and the state, tribal nations, municipalities or certain nonprofits the other 25 percent.
According to the governor’s office, damage assessments will begin the week of Feb. 9.
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