Leo N. Matzke

Cleanup continues in Madison County; officials hope to recoup costs of Stella

Published Mar 20, 2017 at 4:00pm

ONEIDA — The City of Oneida continues to work itself out of the piles of snow left by Winter Storm Stella last week.

The city’s department of public works crew was augmented by state personnel, who worked continually to remove snow from the city’s main roadways. Now crews are returning today to clear out the city’s 43 miles of sidewalks.

“All of Main Street and Lenox Avenue are open for traffic. We still have a ton of snow, and our crews are working to clear the sidewalks,” Oneida Mayor Leo N. Matzke said. The crews began work on the sidewalks at two a.m.

Matzke asked for state help, and received five trucks from the state to deal with high snow drifts. “We had six-foot snowdrifts, and the plows on our trucks are four feet high,” he said.

Winter Storm Stella resulted from the meeting of two low-pressure systems and affected 18 million people from Pennsylvania to Maine. No emergencies were reported in Oneida during the 48-hour period from Tuesday morning through Thursday morning. Madison County issued a temporary travel ban Tuesday evening during the heaviest snowfall.

“The fire department, our DPW people and our water department have been great,” Matzke said.

Work on the snowdrift removal has continued since Winter Storm Stella began last Tuesday morning. Townships around Madison County reported snowfall ranging from 27 inches to 40 inches. Brookfield Town Supervisor John Salka said his township, located in the southeast corner of the county, received 51 inches of snow.

County applies for state,
federal help

Madison County’s Director of Emergency Management Ted Halpin spent Friday afternoon trying to obtain snow removal data from townships throughout the county. The data was due at 4 p.m.

New York State is applying for federal money to help recoup money from Winter Storm Stella. Halpin was seeking totals to give the state an estimate of what the county and spent during the storm’s two-day duration.

The county, Halpin said, would be eligible for up to 75 percent reimbursement through the Department of Homeland
Security if the federal government declares New York State a disaster area.

“I’m asking for records of any costs associated with snow removal, fuel costs that can be verified if a department were to receive an audit,” Halpin said.

Different town supervisors politely told Halpin the deadline was not realistic.

“Our town’s crews usually work from four in the morning until noon. During the storm our people have worked non-stop and they are off today,” Lenox Town Supervisor John Pinard said at the time. “It would be nice to receive this money, but the earliest we can submit these figures would be Monday.”

Halpin later received what he called a substantial estimate to the state. “We had three men working five hours and they received information from the schools, colleges and townships that we may submit. It’s about ninety percent of what we need. We received an extension for Wednesday to submit all the numbers, a chance to sharpen our pencils,” he said.

The state is seeking spending estimates from all 62 counties. If each county exceeds a thresh hold they will help their case in obtaining federal money. Madison County has an emergency thresh hold of $265,000.

Halpin said even if the estimates are adequate the federal government many not provide compensation.

“It’s really two litmus tests on the state and federal levels. All we can do is provide accurate information,” he said.