Blizzard caused $350,000 in damages to Ogdensburg docks, federal aid possible
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – A blizzard that swept the county over the Christmas holiday has caused an estimated $350,000 in damage to the city docks, but the expenses may be covered by federal aid.
The city is hoping to recoup the repair cost as well as additional labor costs associated with the storm by working with St. Lawrence County Emergency Services and The Federal Emergency Management Agency which may be able to assist with funding since a state of emergency was declared.St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Director Matt Denner said the county could be eligible for reimbursement if the total costs associated with the emergency met a certain threshold which he estimated around $490,000.
He said all St. Lawrence County communities impacted by the storm are currently assessing costs and submitting them to the county to tally. Denner said most municipalities have estimated costs at around $30,000 or less, but there are outliers who spent more, especially in Ogdensburg where the marina was severely damaged.
In an update provided to the public, Interim City Manager Andrea Smith said the city spent nearly $100,000 on personnel, fuel and materials in response to the storm. That includes $901 from the Fire Department, $81,149 from Public Works, $1,317 from the City Police and $690 from other employees.
However, the biggest problem was related to the waterfront damage.
“Most concerning is the degree of damage caused to the municipal marina, specifically the floating docks on the south shore (power side) caused by high winds. Staff has reached out to PERRAS who completed repair work in the marina in 2021 as well as TJ Fiacco who is presently working on the City’s REDI project in that vicinity to assist in assessing the damages,” she said. “At this time, we believe the damages to the docks, floats, and electrical systems could be upwards of $350,000. Therefore, this is the cost that has been provided. A detailed assessment will be required to evaluate the extent of damages.”
If Ogdensburg is eligible for funding it would be a blessing to the city which is in fiscal distress. The recently passed budget drew deep into the city coffers to keep the tax hike below the 2% tax cap.
The city did not budget for capital projects and would likely have to dip into its diminishing fund balance to address unexpected costs.
Additionally, the city has virtually no room for extra spending that would cause them to spend money beyond specifically what was budgeted as city officials chose not to pass a resolution overriding the tax cap.
Should the city exceed spending by error or necessity, it could miss out on state aid which the city depends on.
Smith warned council during budget hearings that they would need to keep a very close eye on the numbers to ensure that does not happen.
Even if the FEMA funds are received it’s unclear how fast they might be issued. Denner noted that a similar process was used for expenses associated with COVID and he noted that those funds took a fair amount of time to come in.
Smith said the city would likely need to finance the project and await reimbursement.