HAWLEY - The snow was free.
It’s the cleanup that costs something!
Although we could wait for the snow to melt, which again is free, reality is we have to clear the streets as quickly as possible. For Hawley Borough, the cost came to $33,591.97.
With extra payroll expenses, the cost was closer to $35,000 to remove the two to three feet of snow that fell on Tuesday, March 14.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look at this point like the federal or state government will be able to reimburse the cost.
Blizzard expenses were discussed at the April 12th borough council meeting.
Liquid Fuels tax money, however, is covering the expense, although it limits what they can do the rest of the year in fixing or maintaining the roads. Liquid Fuels money is allocated to municipalities from the state, generated from tax on gasoline sales. It can only be used on road-related expenses.
Councilman Joseph Faubel, who chairs the Finance committee, reported that they had about $57,000 in the Liquid Fuels account. The only other source would be the General Fund. Council agreed to pay the $33K portion from Liquid Fuels; payroll costs will have to be absorbed by the General Fund.
The Nor’easter Stella cost the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania $11.6 million, according to the PA Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). Governor Wolf had declared a state emergency, which would trigger financial help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but only if the the costs rose to a certain threshold.
For Pennsylvania, that was set by FEMA at $18,164,402.
Nine counties were impacted by the storm. Wayne County’s Emergency Management Director, Steve Price, explained that all nine had to collectively meet that level. Although each county individually met the local threshold, together they didn’t have enough.
They included Wayne, Pike, Susquehanna, Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne,Wyoming, Montour and Northumberland counties.
Each county’s Emergency Management Agency office had to gather costs from the townships and boroughs, school districts and the counties themselves, from the most expensive 24-hour period related to the blizzard. Add to that, PennDOT, PA State Police and other state agencies could submit expenses
Price said that for Wayne County, the threshold was $190,687.42. Wayne County far surpassed that, with a grand total of $748,035 (including the state agencies’ costs) submitted. From municipalities, schools and the county alone, it came to around $300,000.
That grand total for Wayne County came out to $14.26 per person (per capita), using 2010 census information.
Pike County’s threshold was $207,102.90. That too was easily met; the grand total of expenses submitted was $644,063. The storm cost $11.26 per capita in Pike.
Price indicated that the blizzard was very costly for municipalities in Wayne County, using up a lot of their local budgets.
Since he became involved with the county EMA in 2006, they have not had a snow-related disaster declaration. More typically, they have submitted expense reimbursement requests after flooding or wind events.
The last blizzard to hit Northeast Pennsylvania, triggering a disaster declaration was in the mid-1990’s.
“We’ve been spoiled the late few years,” Price said.
Asking the state
State legislators and county commissioners have been asking that the formula used to figure the statewide threshold be revised.
At the Hawley Council meeting, Mayor Kevin Hawk, who is also the borough’s EMA coordinator, said it could take “months and months” if the state were to decide to release any funds.
Council president, Ann Monaghan, added, “Somebody said the Class of 2018 would be graduating before we saw a dime.”
Hawley Borough, as in other municipalities, is now turning attention to spring - and pothole patching.
(Editor’s note: A follow up story is expected on the storm’s expense to Pike County.)