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With all but the final handful of Newtown homes reconnected to the electrical grid and most others piped back into their internet and telecom following a tremendous macroburst May 15 that pitched nearly the entire community into darkness — some for nearly a week — those still impacted are focusing on long-term recovery efforts.
On Thursday, May 24, as The Newtown Bee was going to press, Town Building Inspector John Poeltl said he was still building a list of the worst damaged structures, some of which were seasonal cottages and others full-time homes along the western shores of Lake Lillinonah and Lake Zoar.
He said four residences were completely destroyed and ten to 12 are not habitable now, but reparable.
However, Mr Poeltl said the Red Cross provided an updated list of damaged homes to the Building Department, so he and Rob Sibley, deputy director of planning and land use, were heading out to begin checking those addresses.
One observation made by the building inspector and other emergency management personnel was that homes at higher elevations in the storm’s path seemed to suffer greater damage, while those closer to the lake sides, while difficult to access due to hundreds of downed trees, appeared to be somewhat shielded from macroburst downdrafts weather experts said reached 110 miles per hour at the height of the relatively brief but intense event.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he is working with Mr Sibley, who is also coordinating Newtown’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster declaration application.
The first selectman said both municipal functions like roadside debris and fallen tree and log cleanup, and other preliminary catastrophic damage claims resulting from the storm must be documented and filed by May 30.
In order to substantiate our claims the town is asking residential and business property owners to submit picture(s) of damage to any structure on your property, along with your name, the address pictured, and a brief description of the extent of damage sustained via e-mail to: email@example.com
Mr Rosenthal is confident that FEMA application will be completed and qualified by the deadline and will be paired with other communities in order to meet or exceed the minimum FEMA threshold for regional assistance and financial reimbursements. At that point, responsibility for seeing that action completed lies on state officials and the President himself, who Mr Rosenthal said must ultimately authorize federal assistance.
That federal authorization, the first selectman said, will come with some idea of the qualifying reimbursement to the municipality, and will in turn generate the level and speed at which town agencies like Public Works can step up roadside cleanup and disposal of debris.
Multiple officials and those responding to similar weather events have stated that the level of lumber debris resulting from the May 15 storm is as large as or greater than they have ever seen.
At the same time, the town is working on providing a staging site for larger log debris to be dumped. That information will be provided as soon as the site has been confirmed, according to Mr Rosenthal.
Residents can bring brush or logs of any size to the transfer station for disposal at no charge until further notice. Town crews are now planning for the clearing of storm debris on local public roads and right of ways.
Officials plan to keep the transfer station open extended hours on Saturday, May 26, from 7 am to 6 pm.
On Thursday morning, the Land Use, Building Department, Health Department, and Fire Marshal’s Offices issued the following information:
Permit applications can be obtained by at the Building Department and need to be signed off by the departments listed on the application. Most permits require fees, check with the various departments; acceptable payment options are cash or check only.
Contact the Health District with any questions regarding septic systems or wells. Proposed expanded footprints will require review and approval, and properties less than half-acre may require Health Panel Review. Health District staff will help identify information required.
The Fire Marshal’s Office will entertain questions regarding in ground oil tanks, and will not allow permits for burning of building materials.
The Land Use Agency will review any Building permits for impacts associated with Zoning and Conservation. This includes structure setbacks and non-conforming lots.
Officials ask residents to understand that each department will need time to review documents and sign off.
“We will do our best to review permits in a timely manner, but anticipate an overwhelming amount of applications,” the notice states.
Questions can be directed to:
Land Use Agency (Zoning and Conservation) 203-270-4276
Building Department 203-270-4260
Fire Marshal (Underground Oil Tanks and Burn Permits) 203-270-4370
Health District 203-270-4291
Highway Department (regarding trash and debris) 203-270-4300
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