Governor Mills requests federal disaster declaration for June storms in Franklin and Oxford counties; updates to Jay roads

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JAY – Governor Janet Mills has requested that President Joe Biden issue Major Disaster Declarations to help Western Maine recover from June storms that brought heavy rainfall and flooding that caused more than $9 million in infrastructure damage.

In letters sent August 16 to the President, Governor Mills said that storms that occurred on June 26 in Oxford County and on June 29 in Franklin County resulted in public infrastructure damage that is beyond the State’s capability to address. If the President approves the Governor’s requests, Maine would gain access to federal funds it could use to repair the damage.

“With the increased frequency and intensity of storm events in Maine over the last 24 months, emergency management officials across all levels of government have been stretched in their fiscal and programmatic capacity to respond to and recover from disasters,” Governor Mills wrote in her letter to the President regarding the storm in Franklin County (PDF).

Although the weather events occurred only a few days apart, because they were caused by separate storm systems, Maine must request a declaration for each storm. On July 10th, Maine formally requested a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) for Public Assistance for Franklin County from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On-site assessments validated $6,511,535 in infrastructure damage. On July 18th, Maine formally requested a PDA for Oxford County, which validated $2,625,214 in infrastructure damage.

“It has been verified that all of the damaged infrastructure included in the validation process is not eligible for commercially available insurance, and therefore, all repair costs must be covered by local government taxpayers if Federal assistance is not obtained. Due to the extent of infrastructure damages, State resources are not adequate to meet local recovery needs,” Governor Mills wrote in her letter to the President regarding Oxford County (PDF).

The requests submitted by the Governor are specifically for Public Assistance (PA) Program and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides supplemental grants to State, local, and Tribal governments so communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funding to State, local, and Tribal and governments so they can develop hazard mitigation plans and rebuild in a way that reduces, or mitigates, future disaster losses in their communities.

Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere shared an update on Friday, August 18. “We are now 7 weeks post storm and are continuing the process to restore our roads and regain access for our community. FEMA has completed the validation process and the Governor has requested that President Biden issue a FEMA declaration for Franklin County for the June 29th storm. We have communicated with our Congressional Delegation and asked that they add any pressure that they can to expedite that process.”

“Our understanding is that, once the President issues the declaration, we will be assigned a FEMA Project Manager that will work with us on approving projects that may qualify for mitigation funding, allowing us to put the areas back together better than they were before – for example larger culverts. They will also work with us on approving funding for repairs that have been completed. The scope of this is pretty extensive. Roads that were impacted include: Bean Road, Beedy Road, Begin Road, Canton Mtn Road, Davenport Hill Road, Davis Road, East Jay Road, Hutchinson Road, Keep Road, Look Brook, Lomie Rivers Road, Lucarelli Road, Macomber Hill Road, Masterman Road, Morse Hill Road, Old Jay Hill Road, Plaisted Road, Skyline Drive, Soules Hill Road, Spruce Mtn Road, Walker Hill Road, Woodman Hill Road, Whistlestop Rail Trail and Main Street (sewer).”

LaFreniere said that most of these roads have been repaired in house by Jay’s Public Works crew. Look Brook, Canton Mtn and Soules Hill received emergency repairs through local contractors. Other locations are waiting for FEMA mitigation approval before permanent fixes can be made. These include Macomber Hill Road, Hutchinson Road and Begin Road, as well as the Whistle Stop Trail and Main Street where sewer lines were impacted.

Shiloh said that the Begin Road has been temporarily repaired and is now accessible to vehicles. The temporary repair of Hutchinson Road is being re-worked and vehicle access should be restored by the beginning of next week. Repairs of the Woodman Hill washout are currently out to bid with a mandatory pre-bid meeting on Monday morning and bids due back next Friday. The bid documents call for that project to be completed (minus paving) by October 15. Due to the size of the washout on Macomber Hill, there is currently no temporary fix for that location.

“Again, we thank everyone for their continued patience as we work through this process,” LaFreniere concluded.

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