Wilton may have escaped the worst of the storm that hit Fairfield County last week, but there's no escaping the costs associated with the cleanup; that is, of course, unless Fairfield County qualifies for federal disaster aid.
Public Works Director Tom Thurkettle said on Friday that Wilton has "at least 120 yards of material, which is maybe ten dump truck loads" worth of debris from the storm. The town transfer station, by comparison, only has about an acre of ground (roughly the size of a football field) to accommodate such materials.
"The transfer station is there for our convenience," Thurkettle said. "But then we have to truck [the material] out of town to dispose of it."
Thurkettle said Wilton hauls much of the material to sites in Bethel and Newtown, where it costs about $12 per cubic yard to dispose of the debris. With between 120 and 150 cubic yards to this point, Wilton will pay between $1,400 and $1,800 to rid itself of the assorted stumps and branches, not including trucking and loading costs.
Wilton workers also incurred overtime on Saturday and Sunday, as they tried to keep pace with Mother Nature's fury, adding to the storm's overall total. At this point, however, Thurkettle said most of the cleanup on Wilton's rights of way has been completed, though that doesn't account for private and roads and private property.
Now Wilton has turned its focus to tallying the total cost of all the damage. Last Sunday Governor M. Jodi Rell declared Fairfield County to be in a state of emergency, which makes the area eligible for federal disaster funding. Fairfield County, as a whole, would need to have sustained a minimum of $2.85 million in damage to qualify for the aid.
Town officials are urging residents to report any and all personal property damage by filling out this online form. Wilton's Emergency Management office will collect the data and then send it to the Connecticut Department of Emergency management and Homeland Security for submission to FEMA.
Neither First Selectman Bill Brennan nor Thurkettle had an accurate total for the storm's damage as of the end of last week, but expected that number would be forthcoming.
"We're trying to put that together right now," Thurkettle said. "We should probably have a handle on that soon...obviously we'd like to get federal funds but they have certain thresholds that have to be met and whether the combination of all Fairfield County meets those or not, I'm not sure. I don't think we'll know that until everybody has turned in their estimates."
Finally, Thurkettle said that Wilton has been able to assist Westport with some brush removal and, unlike many surrounding towns, did not have many issues with Connecticut Light & Power's response time.
"We didn't have a lot of damage as compared to other towns," he said. "We were very lucky. The storm just skirted us to the south."