Howland Street in Berlin was just one heavily affected area damaged by last year's storm in late October. The City was promised reimbursement from FEMA, and $100,000 was reimbursed to the city so far. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
October 10, 2018BERLIN — It was announced at a council meeting last Monday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had issued a reimbursement to help pay for the cost of repairs from damage caused by the wind storm of last October. Also, the City received a rebate check from Eversource after the installation of LED lighting throughout the city.
Last year, from Oct. 29 into the early morning on Nov. 1, severe thunderstorms occurred causing severe damage throughout the state leaving about 450,000 people without power within New Hampshire – with about 2,000 without power in the Androscoggin Valley. That number shrunk substantially but gradually by the following week as crews worked around the clock. It was the fourth largest power outage in New Hampshire history.
Fortunately, the Trump Administration agreed to declare Coös County as a federal disaster at the request of Gov. Chris Sununu. Berlin was promised to be reimbursed up to 70 percent of the estimated $490,000 cost of storm related repairs from FEMA.
Jay Poulin of HEB Engineers, the general contractor for the Route 16 project, expected a $150,000 surplus from that project that was used for storm damage repairs.
Berlin city officials had reported that there was about $500,000 of damage caused by the storm, but that number rose.
City Manager James Wheeler said that Coös County needed to document $121,642 in damages to be included in the declaration. Meanwhile, according to Mayor Paul Grenier, the City used $1.7 million in undesignated funds to pay for repairs.
Berlin was a target and several homes, businesses, roads, bridges, dams and trails had significant damage. Trees were uprooted and downed, streets were flooded and dams were overflowed, power lines were down, debris was spread everywhere and roads were caved in.
HEB and the City negotiated with Sargent Construction (the general contractor of the Route 16 project) to provide repair work to the damage caused by the storm. Sargent subbed out AB Construction and that company repaired damage throughout the City while HEB concentrated on the Route 16 Project.
At last week's council meeting, Wheeler reported that $100,000 had been reimbursed by FEMA so far, and that $523,000 of unfinished roads and culverts are awaiting approval by FEMA.
Also, Grenier reported that he accepted an incentive rebate of $91,750 from Eversource on September 21 after the LED lighting project that costed $127,993. Eversource also estimated other energy savings and environmental benefits on their "Green Page."
In other business, a utility update revealed that values are less tahn that of last year, according to Wheeler.
"Annually, utility values have to be equalized using the median ratio," he said. "When we were at $56 million, the ratio was 110. The median ratio is 96.2 and adjustments will be made for market impacts. As values go up, it causes a whiplash effect with utility values and stresses the need to take advantage of the increased values."
Mayor Grenier noted that "there is a need to come up with $14 million of additional assessments to break even. If there is no update, the utility values alone would add $1.38 to the tax rate."