Emergency storm declaration could get federal reimbursement


On December 29 in a special meeting at City Hall, the Alexandria City Council affirmed the citys state of emergency during last months winter storm, which dropped 17 to 20 inches of snow throughout Alexandria.

Beginning on December 19 and ending at 12:01 a.m. on December 24, City Manager Jim Hartmann based the declaration on conditions requiring heavy snow-removal operations, infrastructure maintenance and other emergency services during the three-day ordeal, as well as the emergency conditions of peril to life and property which threatened and constituted a disaster, the memorandum stated.

By passing the resolution within 14 days of the storm, the city becomes eligible for state assistance, federal aid or both, if and when it becomes available, according to a Council memo. 

The snow storm cost the city at least $664,000, according to Budget Director Bruce Johnson, who said the number will grow as government agencies continue to reel in expenses and report them to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state, in hopes of benefiting from emergency relief funds.

How much we might get back, were not sure, Johnson said. Were hopeful that we will get a sizeable amount.

While the city is still working to compile an itemized list of expenses, Johnson said the biggest emergency costs result from government employee payroll (particularly overtime pay), paying plow drivers and other contractors and materials such as salt that he said exceed $1,000.

The city also incurred miscellaneous costs ranging from putting city emergency workers up in hotels after being stranded to preemptive salting in case of worse weather.

The fiscal budget allocates $772,000 for snow removal in the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, a figure based on a prediction of 12 inches for the entire year. However, the General Services Department had $67,000 allocated and the Department of Recreation and the Alexandria City Public Schools also have separate budgets for snow emergencies. 

Johnson said city agencies had to submit initial expense estimates to FEMA via Richmond by Wednesday night and will likely submit more details in the next several months as they become clearer, in order to obtain federal reimbursement.

The act was Councils last of 2009. The next legislative meeting takes place at City Hall on Tuesday, January 12, at 7 p.m.