Howell Township has been awarded over $2.7 million in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help pay for clean-up costs from Superstorm Sandy.
"While not directly on the shoreline, Howell Township is a large, heavily wooded town in the heart of my district. I saw firsthand how Superstorm Sandy tore through wooded areas and knocked down countless massive trees that paralyzed Howell transportation," U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) said. "The first order of business was to clear roads so that emergency workers could get through and residents could travel to get food, lodging, fuel and other necessities. We have to recall that it was freezing cold and nearly everyone had lost heat and power. Clearing trees was critical for all the activities necessary for survival and recovery."
On Feb. 18, FEMA announced that Howell is eligible for $1,193,545 in federal funding to pay for work to cut, grind, load and haul massive amounts of debris as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The grant is in addition to $1,575,000 FEMA had earlier awarded to Howell, bringing the total awarded for Sandy-related clean-up to $2,768,545, which represents 90 percent of the $3,076,161 of clean-up costs incurred by the township.
Howell Township workers removed 48,843 cubic yards of vegetative debris themselves, and a contractor removed another estimated 191,157 cubic yards of debris from township-owned and township-maintained roads, properties and rights-of-way. The debris was taken to a temporary staging area located at West Farms Road in Howell east of State Route 9, where it was chipped. The township procured a contractor to grind the 240,000 cubic yards of material into mulch. The mulch was later used on township property and by citizens, with the remainder retained by the contractor, reducing final disposal cost for the debris.
At a meeting in his Washington Office over the summer, Smith personally appealed to FEMA's top official, Administrator Craig Fugate, to approve a 90 percent federal share for FEMA funding going to Jersey towns to pay for cleanup costs--instead of the initially planned 75 percent. Fugate approved the 90 percent ratio several weeks later. If FEMA had kept the federal cost-share rate at the initially planned 75 percent, it would have cost Howell residents an additional $461,424--a significant savings not lost on Mayor William Gotto, who estimated that thousands of trees were felled by Superstorm Sandy.
"When we got the word of the 90 percent cost ratio, we were ecstatic because it filled a big hole in our budget forecasting for the following year," Gotto said. "It's about paying bills. The added money is phenomenal when it comes to trying to keep our tax rate flat."