The Town of Ulster will use more than $85,000 of federal COVID-19 relief funding to reimburse five local fire districts for their efforts during the early February ice storm. The money will come from a roughly $1.3 million allotment the town was eligible for under the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
The resolution, discussed during a Town Board meeting held on Thursday, February 17, will see Ulster Fire District 5 receive $30,000; and Ulster Fire District 1, Ruby Fire District, East Kingston Fire Protection District, and Bloomington Fire District receive $15,000 apiece.
“I believe it’s only appropriate, and the Town Board has expressed their feelings also, that after this horrendous ice storm that we had where the volunteer firemen along with our highway and police department bore the brunt of the responses to the citizens in this community, that we make contributions to the fire services for extreme expenses,” said Supervisor James E. Quigley, III.
Quigley said the decision was made in part following a meeting earlier in the week of the Ulster County Association of Town Supervisors & Mayors during which municipal leaders were advised that New York State had not met the $35 million threshold for reimbursement under the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) during the storm. “Therefore the expenses that the towns incurred (during the storm) are on the town’s dime,” Quigley said.
The supervisor added that new ARP Act regulations included a safe harbor provision which allowed a municipality to designate as lost revenue from COVID up to $10 million, or if lower, the full amount of the money received under the program.
The ice storm that hit the area on Friday, February 4 felled power lines, knocked down tree branches which damaged some homes, and closed roads.
“I know there were some people that were out of power for four days,” said Councilman Rocco Secreto.
Quigley added that the storm was particularly damaging locally. “If you take a look at the storm’s path, it exclusively hit Ulster County, and basically it hit exclusively five or six towns in the center of Ulster County,” he said. “It was a very concentrated storm and we are going to feel the effects of that.”
Following the 4-0 vote — Councilman Clayton Van Kleeck was absent — the supervisor added that the use of the funding would be up to each fire company.
“We are providing it to the Board of Commissioners so that that body can make a judgment decision as to how to best use the monies within the departments,” Quigley said. “Whether it be for additional equipment, supplies, paraphernalia, it is their decision.”