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Council Debates Creation of Emergency Storm Fund

The fund would be appropriated for expenditures needed during emergency situations in Tolland.

The town council debated the creation of an emergency storm fund at its Monday meeting, which could be used by the town manager to fund and authorize emergency expenditures related to storms and other events.

According to Town Manager Steven Werbner, town staff has, from necessity, spent money taken from its operating budget during recent emergencies, such as last year's October snowstorm, and a minor storm that occurred in June.

These expenditures have been reimbursed from FEMA funds, with an excess of approximately $30,000 currently left over from the federal government, which Werbner said could be used to seed the proposed emergency storm fund.

"Anything related to storm events would be payable out of this account," Werbner explained. The proposed ordinance lists expenses such as unbudgeted overtime, repair or replacement of infrastructure due to storm damage, replacement or maintenance of vehicles for storm-related wear and tear, etc. 

Werbner said that the funds for the most recent storms were taken from Tolland's general fund, with council approval, before FEMA reimbursement came in. He said that the proposed fund would allow the council to appropriate a certain amount of money, separate from the general fund, towards emergency needs before the actual events arise.

However, some members of the town council expressed concern that the language of the ordinance controlling the fund is too broad.

Council member Mark Gill also suggested that the use of the fund should be triggered after the town manager has declared a state of emergency.

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In the current ordinance language, the town manager would have to present a spending report to the council within a reasonable time after the emergency event.

Public Safety Director and Emergency Management Director John Littell stressed that the fund would give town staff the ability to fund crucial and time-sensitive purchases for Tolland during emergencies.

"The operating budget could be bankrupt halfway through a storm," Littell said. "These decisions happen at 11 at night," he said of the need for flexibility during emergency situations. "And we just escaped several major storms in the last month and a half."

Littell said that an emergency storm fund would be a "proactive" way to help provide for Tolland residents during storms and other events.

Werbner added that any unspent money in the fund would remain designated for emergencies rolling into the next year. Currently, any surpluses in storm allocations are transferred back into the general fund after June 30. 

The council can choose to transfer money from the emergency storm fund back into the general fund or other accounts if it exceeds $1 million, according to the ordinance

The public hearing on the fund has been continued to the council's meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Steven Jones September 25, 2012 at 07:53 PM
A smart and effective way to budget our town's revenues. While last year was perhaps a once in a lifetime string of major disasters, these funds would in affect be similar to the state's Rainy Day Fund, which was completely exhausted for the Great Recession. The difference (in jest) this fund would be more of a 'Rainy/Snowy/Windy Day Fund'!

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