Southold Town could be one step closer toward mitigating long-term disaster after future storms.
The board agreed to move forward with a new federal program that would prove proactive in mitigating damage after natural disasters by embracing a proactive approach.
In February, representatives of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, a new program under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, met with the Southold Town board at a work session to discuss the initiative.
NDRF pulls together federal agencies to work together in a collaborative effort, focusing not only recovery for disaster-impacted areas -- but on projects that can shore up infrastructure to prevent from future damage during storms still to come.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he has been working with FEMA officials on a regular basis since the recovery efforts after Hurricane Irene.
NDRF reps plan to go before other boards of elected officials on Long Island, as well; they recently described the federal program in Riverhead.
Currently, FEMA funding exists in the form of direct reimbursement for costs associated with the damage caused by disasters such as Superstorm Sandy.
"This means that any man hours, costs of debris clean up and restoration of damaged assets, like roads or beaches, etc. are eligible for funding from FEMA," Russell said. "The standard that is used is to restore the public assets to 'pre-storm' standards," meant to restore damaged areas to their pre-storm state.
The new NDRF funding, Russell said, would provide funding as an investment in the future -- to reduce the likelihood that roads, beaches and other town assets would not be destroyed again during the next storm.
On Tuesday, Southold Town emergency coordinator Lloyd Reisenberg and special projects coordinator Phillip Beltz spoke to the town board at a work session about a meeting held with NDRF representatives.
"We're going to try and go ahead and work with them using their resources to help the town," Reisenberg said.
NDRF reps, he said, aim to help research grants and "help us with a certain direction we can go to get these resources."
Before proceeding, Reisenberg said the town board would need to officially invite the NDRF to help and state that the town was willing to work with the NDRF; no town resources would be expended.
The board agreed to extend the invitation.
"They, as an entity, as part of the federal government, have a lot of resources at their disposal," Beltz said. NDRF representatives, he said, want to meet not only with town officials but with the public, to detemine how best to help deliver resources for which the town has expressed a direct need.
For example, Beltz said, when the need for generators in Southold Town was described, NDRF said perhaps that "tangible resource" could be delivered through health and human resources.
"They're not saying what they think we need -- they're asking the town what we need and trying to deliver," Beltz said.
Southold Town Councilman Bill Ruland said the program is a "win-win" but said it was "mind-boggling when people tell you there are millions in federal dollars available -- but the country is broke."
Still, he added, "I'd hate for the town to fall by the wayside because we didn't adopt a simple resolution to say we're willing to kick the tires and see how it goes."
Councilwoman Louisa Evans agreed. "It is mind-boggling. Where is the money coming from? But let's get in line."
Russell said $1.17 billion in federal funding had already been allocated to New York State, exclusive of New York City, which will also receive over $1 billion.
FEMA has a role in the new program, the supervisor said, but "this is not traditional reimbursement. It's a holistic approach. They want the town not only to rebuild, but they don't want to suffer repetitive costs again and again. The goal is to rebuild in a way that makes sense."
Beltz said NDRF is "all about planning," which ties right into the town's work on the comprehensive plan; the next chapter to be worked upon involves emergency preparedness.
Reisenberg added that NDRF was interested in long-term planning that could span years.
NDRF reps have told the town that projects are considered with an eye toward keeping municipalities resilient and sustainable.