WILKES-BARRE — With most of the city dug out from last week’s blizzard, City Hall is digging in to determine what it cost and if the city will be reimbursed by the federal government for the massive cleanup.
Mayor Tony George on Sunday lifted the state of emergency he declared March 14 when Winter Storm Stella overwhelmed many places with more than 2 feet of snow. The declaration, authorized by the city charter, allowed the mayor to take emergency measures to protect the public and property, such as hiring contractors to assist with snow removal.
The contractors used front-end loaders and dump trucks to supplement the efforts by the city’s Department of Public Works. While that snow-removal operation was in full swing last week, the mayor estimated it would cost $500,000 for the outside help and overtime costs for the city.
On Monday, City Administrator Ted Wampole said the final cost for the Stella cleanup has yet to be determined.
“One of the first things we’re going to do is meet tomorrow as a staff to kind of do a post-storm review,” Wampole said.
The city will gather invoices, bills and time sheets to prepare a report for the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency, which is spearheading the drive to obtain possible federal reimbursement for municipalities. The multi-step process has monetary benchmarks to meet and a time frame for the state to submit a Declaration Request. However, there is no guarantee of federal funds.
“We’re hoping it hits the thresholds for the county and the state,” Wampole said.
The county already has met the first requirement in the process with the near record or record snowfall dumped by Stella. The next step is compiling individual costs from the county’s 76 municipalities to determine if they meet the county’s $1.158 million threshold. If reached, the total will be added to figures from seven other counties to meet Pennsylvania’s $18.2 million threshold to qualify for federal money.
The state has until April 16 to submit its request to FEMA.