State Lacking Money To Help Cities And Towns With Storm Cleanup

As the state continues to struggle to balance its budget, the state will "probably not'' have any additional money to help the towns pay for the pre-Halloween storm cleanup, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday.

"The state will have the same difficulties that the local governments will have,'' Malloy said. "The answer to that is probably not, and I've had conversations with municipal leaders and most of them understand that. I think most of them are therefore extremely grateful about the declaration that has come in near-record time from the federal government'' to reimburse 75 percent of municipal expenses.

On Thursday night, President Barack Obama declared that Connecticut is a "major disaster'' area, which provides an increased level of funding for seven of the state's eight counties. New London County, which suffered relatively little damage, is still eligible for a reduced level of funding.

One of the biggest challenges facing the municipalities now is the disposal of huge amounts of brush that is piled up along highways and front lawns. West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka projects the clean-up costs at $7 million, while South Windsor could spend $6 million. The towns will need to generate 25 percent of their costs as the state is essentially breaking even on a $20 billion annual budget with an economy that is still struggling.

"We're operating under a spending cap.,'' Malloy told reporters Friday outside his Capitol office. "We're operating under a budget, just like all of those municipalities are. I know that a number of municipalities have also raised the issue of bonding and may need some assistance there'' that would be addressed on a case by case basis for possible bonding waivers that would allow the towns to borrow money to pay for the clean-up.

When asked how the state can afford to trim all of the trees to prevent similar power outages in the future, Malloy responded, "How do you afford not to do it?''

Many of the contractors collecting the debris along the side of the road are from out-of-state. Malloy, though, said that the Connecticut-based tree services have been quite busy.

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