FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2007

Schumer: With The City Of Buffalo Sufficiently Meeting All Of Fema's Demands, City Should Be Reimbursed For All Costs Incurred When Removing Tree Stumps Leftover From Last Year's Storm


The City has Adequately Provided FEMA with all Requested Information and Met with the Agency Firsthand

The Cost of Removing the Tree Stumps is Estimated at More than $1.4 million, but the City is Still being Deprived of Reimbursement Funds to Cover Costs

Schumer: FEMA must Overturn its Foolhardy Decision and Help, Not Hinder, the City's Attempt to Finally Clean-up From

With the City of Buffalo sufficiently meeting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) request for additional information pertaining to the city’s ongoing efforts to remove tree stumps from last October’s freak snowstorm, today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Federal agency to approve the City’s appeal for reimbursement for funding to cover the costs of tree stump removal. The cost of removing the stumps is estimated at more than $1.4 million, but FEMA has informed the City that it will not fully cover the costs. The City has appealed FEMA’s ruling and has pleaded its case to both the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and with FEMA - most recently on August 23rd.

 

Satisfied the City has taken all the appropriate steps towards justifying its appeal, today Schumer sent a letter to David Paulison, Under Secretary of Homeland Security, urging his agency to reimburse the city for funding to cover its tree stump removal costs.

 

"The City of Buffalo has bent over backwards, sufficiently making its case why FEMA should reimbursement it for the costs of removing these tree stumps,” said Senator Schumer. “Today I’m calling on FEMA to acknowledge the great pains the City has taken to properly clean-up in the aftermath of a devastating storm and to overturn a foolhardy decision by giving Buffalo the funding it needs to finish the job. Plain and simple, FEMA cannot wipe its hands and walk away from the city and it’s residents.”

 

As a result of the freak snowstorm that slammed the Buffalo area in October of 2006, and destroyed thousands of trees, there are 7,000 tree stumps throughout the City that present a lasting danger, if they are not dealt with.  According to Schumer, the stumps must be removed for safety, but the City can not finance this project alone. The stumps present a serious threat to those living in and visiting Buffalo. The City is concerned that it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian trips over a stump and injures themselves.  The City is further concerned that anyone who suffers an injury from these hazardous tree stumps may hold the City liable – a cost that it can not shoulder. 

 

Schumer argued that at a cost of $200 per stump extraction, the Buffalo government estimates that this project will cost nearly $1.4 million, a significant financial burden.  In addition to the expense of stump removal, liabilities including hazards to pedestrians and drivers present unknown future costs, as outlined in a letter from the City to SEMO on September 7th, providing further evidence of the urgency of this matter

 

This City’s appeal, which was filed on March 8, 2007, has been acknowledged by FEMA and additional information was requested by the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO).  Subsequently, the City met with representatives from SEMO and FEMA on June 5 and again on August 23. Now that Buffalo has provided SEMO and FEMA with the additional information that it requested, Schumer today argued that it has time for FEMA to provide the city with the money that it desperately needs.

 

The City expects to have final bids for full costs of stump removal in by the end of this month. Because of the enormity of the stump problem throughout the City they expect the removal process to take a full year concluding in November of 2008.

 

Schumer in his letter called on FEMA to not only approve the expense for stump removal but to be sure that the approval allows the needed time to complete the project safely and effectively.

 

Through the Public Assistance Program, FEMA provides supplemental Federal disaster grant assistance for the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain Private Non-Profit (PNP) organizations. Under this program, FEMA defines debris removal as the clearance, removal, and/or disposal of items such as trees, sand, gravel, building components, wreckage, vehicles, and personal property.

 

On October 15, 2006, Schumer visited Buffalo immediately following the snowstorm to survey the damage. He successfully urged the President to make a Major Disaster Declaration which released millions of dollars in federal aid for storm victims. Following the storms Schumer was in close contact with FEMA and the SBA to ensure that aid would be available to those whose homes and businesses were damaged.

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