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November 10. 2012 11:49PM

NH communities to seek federal aid for storm-related costs

Communities hit by Superstorm Sandy are tallying the costs for preparing and responding to the late October storm, hoping to get reimbursed through federal disaster aid.

Derry expects storm costs to range from $30,000 to $40,000, perhaps a bit more.

"We're hoping to get that back," said Fire Chief George Klauber, the town's emergency management director.

"Unfortunately, we have been through this before," Klauber said. "We have a pretty good idea what FEMA requires, what they'll be looking for when they come in."

A state official said it's too early to tell whether the state will qualify for federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We're going to apply for everything the state is entitled to," said Jim Van Dongen, the public information officer for the state Department of Safety.

"FEMA covers 75 percent. The state is responsible for the remaining 25 percent, although this has usually (but not always) been split 12 and 12 with municipalities," Van Dongen said by email. "The governor will have to make that decision."

According to Van Dongen, damages and response costs for the 2011 Halloween storm totaled $4,437,182, of which the federal share was $3,327,887. The state paid to communities half of the remaining difference, he said.

The assistance covered communities in Grafton, Hillsborough and Rockingham counties as well as some state government costs.

For Sandy, preliminary storm damage costs released by the governor's office indicated communities suffered nearly $1.5 million in damage, but that number could change.

In Manchester, Sandy is projected to cost city departments about $50,000 in labor and equipment costs, according to Deputy Fire Chief Dan Goonan.

"It wasn't a huge incident for us," said Goonan, also the deputy director of emergency management.

For the 2011 Halloween storm, Manchester received $275,000 in FEMA reimbursement, he said. That storm caused more costly tree damage than Sandy created.

The city, he said, can be reimbursed for a certain percentage of its storm-related calls. "We can charge so much per hour that the truck was on the road," Goonan said.

Manchester Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard said his preliminary calculation is about $23,000 to cover labor costs. He said his departmental tally could surpass $30,000 once reimbursement for equipment costs are included.

Klauber said his town's estimate includes $7,000 to $8,000 for additional police pay "to beef up their staffing."

A fire station and a couple of sewer and water pump stations were on generator power, so the town will submit those costs, he said.

"Compared to other storms, the town of Derry fared better than in the past," he said. Town budget planners can't forecast big storms, and some "can have a big impact" on town finances, making federal reimbursement important.

Nashua is looking to recover about $30,000 in costs from Sandy, compared with $650,000 it received from FEMA for the 2011 Halloween snowstorm, according to Justin Kates, the city's emergency management director.

"This was nowhere as devastating as we experienced during the October snowstorm.

In Laconia, City Manager Scott Myers said he expects the storm to cost several thousand dollars or less for extra police and fire, compared with $15,000 to $20,000 in storm costs for Tropical Storm Irene.

"We lucked out on this storm Sandy," Myers said.

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Michael Cousineau may be reached at mcousineau@unionleader.com.

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