AUGUSTA — Kennebec County reported enough damages and costs from December’s ice storm to receive federal aid, joining 11 other counties that will get the money if the storm is declared a disaster by the federal government.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the damage estimate of the storm that covered parts of the state in up to an inch of ice just before Christmas and caused widespread power outages was $5.6 million, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
Counties have been gathering the total costs and damages incurred by municipalities during the storm and its aftermath as part of a process to apply for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Municipalities in Kennebec County, along with the county government, reported more $660,000 in costs and damages from the storm, according the county’s emergency management agency.
Unlike some disasters, much of the cost is associated with clearing roads and operating emergency shelters, not physical damage from the storm, agency spokeswoman Lynette Miller said. She expects FEMA personnel to begin verifying the initial estimates as early as Wednesday, and the work will likely extend into early next week. A large portion of the cost was reported by the Maine Department of Transportation, she said.
To qualify for money from FEMA and the state, counties must meet a threshold of $3.50 of damage per capita, Miller said. The federal agency reimburses 75 percent of the eligible damages and the state reimburses 15 percent. Up to 90 percent of costs are eligible for reimbursement.
If FEMA verifies the reported damages are correct, Gov. Paul LePage will request a disaster declaration from President Barack Obama to allow the FEMA money to be released, Miller said. The federal agency will work with municipalities and the state if a disaster is declared to finalize the costs eligible for reimbursement.
She said the Maine Legislature has handled the decision of whether to reimburse the state Department of Transportation the additional 15 percent differently in past declarations. Lawmakers could decide that the costs are part of the department’s budget and not allocate additional money, Miller said.
MEMA reported Monday that Kennebec County is one of five counties that didn’t make the cut, along with Cumberland, Oxford, Sagadahoc and York, but more recent data shows that the county met the threshold. The reported costs vary by municipality, from $2,765 in Wayne to more than $60,000 in Gardiner.
The last storm declared a disaster by FEMA — a blizzard last February — led the federal agency to dole out $1.5 million to the state for aid to Androscoggin, Cumberland, Knox, Sagadahoc, Washington and York counties, according to the agency.
Miller said that disaster was declared in late March, the first payments were received in May and all federal reimbursements were completed by the end of August.