A tornado that ripped through the heart of Bristol last month, downing hundreds of trees without injuring or killing anyone, failed to do enough damage for the city to qualify for federal disaster relief.
Though officials tallied a bit more than $500,000 in damage suffered by public and private property owners, the number fell well short of the level required to trigger federal help.
That means that residents whose insurance failed to cover all of their costs are going to get stuck with the bills and city taxpayers are going to have to cough up the cash to cover swollen overtime tabs for municipal workers who cleaned up much of the debris from the July 21 tornado.
There remains a small chance that the federal Small Business Administration may offer low-interest loans to assist businesses slammed by the tornado.
The city totaled up its own costs and heard from dozens of residents who also got clobbered by the storm.
Raymond and Katherine Guimond of 128-130 Blakeslee St., the hardest hit area of town, reported to the mayor’s office that they lost at least 15 trees and expected to be out at least $5,000 for the cost of hauling away the downed timber.
High Street resident Elizabeth Banks reported that a 150-year-old tulip tree smashed through her garage, destroying the building. She estimated the damage to her property at $71,396.
The manager of the company that owns the Shoppes at Larson Farms, Stephen Larson, said that “during the mayhem” at the height of the storm, “the winds took the top off our pylon sign and tossed it into the middle of Route 6.”
“We thank God no one was injured or killed,” Larson added.
Combined with the loss of some metal sheeting on the L.A. Fitness building, the plaza suffered $6,118 worth of damage that insurance won’t cover, he said.
Mayor Art Ward said he’s sorry that so many people are going to be stuck with cleanup and repair costs.
On the other hand, he said, he’s glad the storm wasn’t any worse.
In order to have a shot at Federal Emergency Management Agency aid, the mayor said, the storm would have to cause at least $2.7 million worth of damage in Hartford County and more than $4.2 million statewide. He said that even when Bristol added in the damage in Plainville and New Britain, it fell well short of the required levels.
The SBA may be able to assist a bit, however.
Ward said that if 25 or more business owners report damage, the SBA can offer low-interest loans to help them get back on their feet. It isn’t clear whether enough companies need the help, though.
The single biggest tally for damages came from the Park Department, which estimated it lost $75,000 worth of trees, most of them at Rockwell Park and Muzzy Field.
Ward said the city will have to absorb its large overtime and other expenses just as it would if it was hit with a major blizzard or ice storm.
For now, departments are dipping into their normal budgets to pay the cost, but it’s likely some will need additional appropriations this fiscal year to cover normal operating expenses after coping with the tornado’s aftermath.
Ward said he’s not sure how the Board of Finance will choose to handle the situation.
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