Apr 302003
Authors: Patrick Crossland

The blizzard in March left more than snow, branches and hours of cleanup. It also left a large bill to cover its three-day stay in Colorado.

President Bush declared an emergency in Colorado to reimburse the state and 22 counties, including Larimer, for the cost of cleanup during and after the snowstorm.

Fort Collins is still waiting to see government aid, said County Manager Frank Lancaster.

“Federal money takes a long time,” he said.

All expenditures are directly related to snow removal, primarily covering the cost of overtime pay and equipment rental, said Polly White, public information officer for the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

“This type of disaster we’ve never had before,” White said.

What makes this disaster unique when compared to the July 2002 wildfires and 1997 flooding is that the blizzard has been declared a federal emergency, rather than a disaster, whereby funds come in after the money has already been spent.

“It wasn’t a major disaster, it didn’t endanger the safety of the people,” White said. ” There wasn’t enough to qualify for a disaster declaration.”

Colorado could receive as much as $12 million to be divided among as many as 85 applicants, White said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is currently in the process of assessing where federal money will go. Potential applicants for aid are informed about what FEMA can offer and complete a request for public assistance.

“It really involves looking at personal records of city agencies to assess cost eligibility,” said Justin DeMello, the federal coordinating officer for FEMA. “They’re put into a project worksheet and entered into a computer database and then funds are dispersed.”

Six to eight FEMA workers will be in Fort Collins to assess applications for a period of 30 to 60 days.

“The scope of looking at records is a tedious task, but they become proficient at looking at records,” DeMello said. “We’re going to do our part as fast as possible.”

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