WINDERMERE The Town of Windermere’s budget has taken a major hit in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Within just a few weeks, the expense of cleaning up the debris and making any necessary repairs has already cost the town more than $300,000.
“Every day, the estimates are going up,” said Mayor Gary Bruhn. “We’re predicting right now a minimum of $315,000 when you consider what we are doing.”
In the last two weeks, the town approved the hiring of contractors to assist in the debris cleanup. But according to Bruhn, the town hopes to get reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, the reimbursement process requires following strict guidelines.
“We have different crews picking it up and putting it in two park areas where we have to catalog every piece we have,” Bruhn said. “We have to document it, then it gets sent to a FEMA dump where it gets documented again. We’ve not only hired the crews to pick it up, but we also hired a third party monitor to document this stuff. If you have a third part documenter, you go to the top of the queue for getting reimbursed.”
Although Bruhn said the town is following FEMA’s instructions for cleanup, it is unclear when the town will get reimbursed or what that amount will be.
With an already limited budget, Bruhn said the added cost from Hurricane Irma may put the behind on future capital improvement projects.
“With a $5 million budget, taking a $315,000 minimum hit - that’s significant,” Bruhn said. “There’s a lot you can do with that. We have capital plans we want to put together, so it puts a lot of things on hold.”
During the last Town Council meeting, Bruhn announced that the town had to postpone discussion of resurfacing roads in the neighborhood of The Willows at Lake Rhea - an item that has been of major concern to Willows residents.
Bruhn said it could take time before the town can readdress capital improvement plans, like the repaving of Willows’ roads.
“We don’t know where we’re at, so right now we have to see what the impact is,” he said. “The priority is safety first.”