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Nassau's cleanup tab after Sandy: $213M

Nassau County receives tree debris that resulted from

Nassau County receives tree debris that resulted from superstorm Sandy at a collection site in Eisenhower Park. (Nov. 28, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Cash-squeezed Nassau County is expecting to spend at least $213 million for superstorm Sandy expenses and hopes to receive federal reimbursement for most of the costs.

County legislative committees Monday voted to appropriate $118 million to pay for Sandy-related expenses on top of $95 million approved by the legislature last month.

Budget officials said they expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse at least 75 percent of the county's costs of debris removal, police overtime and other storm expenses.

They added that FEMA and the state may eventually cover 90 percent to 100 percent of the tab.

Nassau has 60 days from the county's first meeting with FEMA on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 to submit the bills, they said.

The total allocation includes an emergency $9 million approved by polling the legislature by phone during the last week of 2012 to allow the county to meet its Dec. 27 payroll.

Budget Director Roseann D'Alleva said Nassau came close to "payroll failure," mostly because the county had yet to separate regular police overtime from storm-related overtime, which will be charged to the FEMA reimbursement account.

The police department "has thousands of time slips they have not gone through that they have to verify what is Sandy overtime and what is not," D'Alleva told the county legislature's Finance Committee.

She said there are 15,000 to 20,000 time slips that must be reviewed.

Without the emergency $9 million appropriation, she said the comptroller would have held back employee paychecks because there was not enough money in the budget's payroll line.

D'Alleva said the county has racked up $75 million in Sandy-related bills and paid $17 million so far.

She said FEMA has approved reimbursing $55 million at the 75 percent reimbursement rate.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) said legislators had not received enough information, calling the appropriation "a blank check."

She also objected to $40 million for Looks Great Services, citing the tree-debris removal contractor's chopping down of 111 trees in the Welwyn Preserve in Glen Cove and the 37-vehicle accident on the Long Island Expressway involving a truck identified by a county source as a Looks Great subcontractor.

Deputy County Executive Tim Sullivan said the county must allocate the money before FEMA will reimburse it.

Until the federal dollars come in, the county is using $20 million in short-term borrowing to pay the bills, he said.

DeRiggi-Whitton abstained from voting for the $118 million in appropriations, which goes to the full legislature for approval on Monday.

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