Town of Halifax, Vermont 

May 29, 2014


The meeting was convened at 9:00 AM en route to the Town Office, 5259 Route 5, Ascutney, Vermont.  Board members in attendance were Earl Holtz and Edee Edwards.  In attendance at this Mock FEMA Public Assistance Applicant Briefing were town officials from Brattleboro, Jamaica, and other towns.  VTRANS District 2 Specialist Steve Ovenden was there as well.  The training was given by Kimberly Canarecci, Public Assistance Officer and Brett Pierce, Public Assistance Coordinator, both from the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Bridge #37 Meeting Confirmation
En route to the training at approximately 10:00 AM, Holtz received a call from Bill Rossignol at Holden Engineering.  Pulling over to the side of the road, Holtz used his hands-free phone to confirm the time and location of the Friday Pre-construction meeting on Bridge #37.

No other town business was discussed on the drive up.

Traffic Studies
Steve Ovenden suggested that Matt Mann of Windham Regional Commission might be able to help with a traffic study.

FEMA Public Assistance Program –Training Session
The Mock Applicant Briefing was designed to help town ensure they were aware of the processes and some rule changes in advance of potential future disasters that may be eligible for FEMA Public Assistance (PA) reimbursement.  This included information on:

  • FEMA PA Basic Workflow
    • Preliminary Damage Assessments > Governor request for declaration of emergency > Declaration > Applicant Briefing (what this training was to simulate) > Submission of Request for funding > Kickoff meeting with FEMA project specialist > Formulation of Projects > Project Review > Approval > Funding to Grantee > To Sub-Grantee (e.g. Town)
  • Submission Deadlines
    • 30 Days to request PA
    • Damage assessment with 60 days of declaration of emergency
  • FEMA Classes or Types of Work
    • Emergency Measures are Type A: Debris Removal and Type B: Emergency Protective Measures (sandbagging activities)
    • Permanent work includes Type C: Roads and Bridges and many others
  • Project completion deadlines
  • Special considerations that affect scope and funding
    • Insurance coverage
    • Flood Plain Management (Stay-out-of-river rules apply to get funding—Irene had a specific exemption, but don’t rely on that)
    • Hazard Mitigation
    • Environmental Protection
    • Historic Preservation & Cultural Resources
  • Codes & Standards should build in upgrades for resiliency & post-flood conditions and be followed as a standard practice for all work, not just post-disaster
  • Costs need to be reasonable & necessary
    • Examples of $16/hourly; one town has 10x debris cost of others
    • No set percentage allowable for direct administrative costs (DAC)—justify and document all hours.  Can’t claim time at applicant meeting, for example.
    • Equipment costs can’t claim standby time—shouldn’t exceed labor hours
    • Document time & specific hours, including proof that activities were eligible and project-specific
    • Materials can be purchased or stock
    • Contracts: prefer competitively bid with fixed-procurement procedures.  Over $120K—must be competitively bid.
    • Ineligible contracts include: cost plus percentage, contingent upon FEMA reimbursement, or contract with a debarred contractor
    • Improved and Alternate Projects must be approved prior to construction.
      • Discussion about having an alternate project in mind, especially if your Flood Plain Regulations would not allow you to rebuild roads where they are presently, suggested this was very helpful.
      • For an improved or alternate project, you will likely not get any $ beyond the cost to fix the original structure
    • What’s New
      • New forms were created for submitting your funding request at the Applicant’s Briefing, adding a project contact, a fiscal contact, and ensure information from the subgrantee is collected.
        • Key point: make sure  contact information is legible
        • They will eventually have this on a website
        • Always do this, even if you aren’t yet sure you have enough damage to qualify
      • New pilot project for Debris removal (no down side to this)
        • Sign up for this to get both straight and OT for staff time
        • More money received if work is done quickly
        • Avoid cleaning up debris on private property—often not funded
        • Cradle-to-grave document how trees are disposed of, cubic yards at start
        • MUST be immediate threat to life, health, and safety
      • Project Thresholds and Creation are both different, starting now:
        • GROUPING of projects is new.  Most Category C work will be done under 1 project.  (Next time, we won’t have 23 small projects and a bunch of large, as we did for Irene.)  Some large projects may still be separated out.
        • Minimum for small projects is $3K
        • Large projects are >$120K
        • Both figures are likely to be adjusted upwards regularly, over time
        • Small projects continue to be paid AS ESTIMATED, and if you are over you lose, if you are under you win (but costs still must be reasonable, etc.)
        • On smalls, you can request Dept. of Public Safety give you $ up front, and you will have a site inspection when the work is done.  Cost documentation is less stringent, but still will be verified.
        • Actual, reasonable costs will be paid on large projects (with all the standard caveats).  DPS allows you to claim incurred costs, up to 75% of the Federal share, along the way.
      • Appeals process has been revamped somewhat:
        • Unsatisfied for any reason: Tell FEMA, DPS, VTRANS district that you want a determination on the project
        • 60 Days to provide intent to appeal > document why the decision by FEMA was in error
        • Sent to FEMA, there are 2 levels of review.  The second, at FEMA HQ, is final.
        • 40 CFR 206.206 has the process.
      • Towns are allowed access to EMMIE and should request from their FEMA rep that they be allowed to review the project worksheet
    • Document, document, document:
      • Photos; GPS points; Detailed time spent records
      • Completed timesheets, Purchase orders, Contracts, Equipment Records
      • Original documentation should be kept for at least 3 years after the project is done
    • Follow up suggested
      • Town should register on (System for award management) in advance.  Check here for debarred contractors.  (Small contractors may not be listed in the database at all.  Being in the system is not an endorsement, but not being in the system might raise some flags if you do not know the contractor.)
      • Town should review Codes and Standards
      • Town should have standard contracts, and use them, to make contracting post-disaster easier

Edwards and Holtz spoke briefly about follow up items and will recap these in a future Selectboard meeting.

The training session ended at 12:30 PM.

During the ride home, no other town business was discussed.

Hearing of Visitors


The meeting was officially ended at 1:50 PM after returning home.

Respectfully submitted,
Edee Edwards, Selectboard Member