April 4, 2013-Springfield, MA- Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced today that the City of Springfield (City) has successfully defended the City’s emergency response demolitions in the aftermath of the June 1, 2011 tornado. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initially denied reimbursement to the City for the cost associated with the demolition in a letter dated March 7, 2012.
Immediately following the June 1st tornado the City of Springfield’s Building Commissioner found that out of the 300 residential and commercial properties that were significantly damaged by the tornado; 20 structures were unfit for habitation and constituted a hazard to public safety and health, 10 commercial properties were demolished and removed or partially demolished due to immediate threat to the public.
In December of 2011 extensive meetings began between FEMA and the City of Springfield regarding the residential demolitions. The City provided FEMA documents related to the condemnation process, as well as, the 19 point demolition checklist used for each of the properties, including photographic detail demonstrating the City’s thorough efforts to comply with federal regulations. On March 7, 2012 the City received a denial letter from the FEMA Public Assistance Branch Director. The letter stated that “FEMA has assessed the subject property and determined to be ineligible for FEMA reimbursement of demolition related costs.”
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated; “The road back to full recovery has been a trial of perseverance and patience. A lot of folks with in the City have now spent years on seeking as much reimbursement as we are eligible for to make the City of Springfield whole again.”
The City immediately protested the determination made by FEMA and began to engage in a long and arduous appeals process. The process included site visits on April 20, 2012 with a team of FEMA, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and City officials. This included FEMA writing project work sheets for each property and denying funding for each property as they deemed each not to be an imminent threat of collapse.
Under the FEMA Public Assistance Policy the City had 60 days to file an appeal to this determination. On June 22, 2012 the City submitted its appeal which focused on the City’s Building Inspectors technical expertise and his right and duty under Massachusetts law to condemn structures that are of immediate threat to public health. Additionally, the City focused on the immediate threat to the public safety that these properties presented in their current condition.
On October 16, 2012, the FEMA Regional Director approved the demolition of the 10 Residential properties stating, “I have determined that these structures are unsafe and pose an immediate threat to the public, and are eligible for Public Assistance.” This determination allowed the City to be reimbursed for all costs associated with the demolition including the management and administration of the demolition program.
On February 13, 2013, the FEMA Regional Director approved funding of the City’s costs for the 10 commercial properties demolished or made safe immediately following the tornado.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno added; “This is a great win for the City of Springfield. Not only will we be reimbursed for the cost of our efforts but it is another step in the City being able to heal and rebuild from this disaster. I am also very grateful for the continued and dedicated efforts of my internal tornado team.”
With these cases finally reaching a conclusion the City of Springfield will be fully reimbursed for the cost associated with the demolitions, which have already occurred. The City will be reimbursed an estimated $1,276,000 for the 20 demolitions; $281,000 for the residential and $995,000 for the commercial.