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Monday, February 16, 2015


Be sure to keep good records of storm-related losses
By Will Collette

Blizzard Cat animated GIFCharlestown has gotten off a lot easier this winter – so far – than most of the rest of New England. Our snow totals have been a lot less and, again so far, we haven’t had a brutal wet snow even like 2013’s Nemo that knocked out power for days and destroyed many trees all over town.

Take, for example, poor South Kingstown, which must have had at least seven or eight feet of snow if you believe the headlines in the Patch website, though they now seem to be getting a little defensive about their Faux News-style weather coverage.

I realize winter’s not over yet. That idiot groundhog has predicted winter will last through most of March. If I believed in jinxes, I shouldn’t even be having this conversation with you.

At some point soon, most or all of New England might receive a federal disaster declaration. 

Governor Raimondo and the other New England governors have asked for federal help. They have also issued the appropriate state disaster declarations. Even towns like Charlestown issued their own emergency declarations.

All that paves the way for reimbursement for storm costs to states and localities and perhaps some reimbursements to individuals. FEMA had a team on the ground in Rhode Island last week to assess the impact of the storms.

If you have suffered any storm-related costs, you really need to document those losses, logging details like dates, times, circumstances and backing it up with photos or video.
  • Did you suffer property damage? This can range from collapsed roofs, downed trees to trashed mailboxes.
  • Did you suffer other property loss? Common example – the storm knocks out power for a few days and you lose perishable food.
  • Did you lose time out of work due to the storms?
 animated GIFNot every imaginable cost will be covered. For example, you won’t get anyone to reimburse you for your aching back from shoveling snow – that’s household maintenance. For some costs, such as severe damage to your home, you may have to go to your homeowner’s insurance first.

Even if we don’t get any kind of emergency federal disaster relief – and that’s a distinct possibility with the Tea Party crazies now in control of Congress – there are other ways to get help, at least for some little things, like pothole damage or smashed mailboxes.

I am worried about federal aid either being dismissed out of hand by the Republican-controlled Congress (i.e. why give any aid to all those Blue states in New England?) or that the aid will come with some onerous strings attached. 

Maybe they’ll require, as a condition for disaster relief, that a state only becomes eligible if it pulls out of Obamacare.

This is not a joke and it’s not far-fetched. Currently, the Republican leadership is willing to allow the Department of Homeland Security to run out of money at the end of February unless their budget bill includes a repeal of President Obama’s executive order on humane treatment for undocumented immigrants. 

Attaching an anti-Obamacare rider to a New England disaster relief bill almost seems like the least the Ted Cruz’s and Paul Ryan’s of the Congress might do.

While we wait to see what happens in Washington, if you suffered storm damage to your car from potholes, or the RIDOT crews wrecked your mailbox (and I noticed many of my Route One neighbors have broken mailboxes), there is a process to get reimbursed.
The state sent me $50 to get my mailbox fixed.

I can attest from personal experience (click here) that the process does work – the state paid me $50 toward the repair of my mailbox. They also offered to replace it with one of their own standard boxes (small box on a metal pole).

You can also contact state Senator Dennis Algiere (R) if you live in the southern part of Charlestown. He is very good at constituent service like this and has a super-efficient staff.

In years past, you could have called Rep. Donna Walsh (D), but now you’re stuck with libertarian Tea Partier Blake “Flip” Filippi who probably doesn’t believe government should even be plowing the roads, never mind reimbursing people for busted mail boxes.

In the northern half of Charlestown, you no longer have Sen. Cathie Cool Rumsey (D) but her replacement, Senator and alleged police impersonator Elaine Morgan (R) who may or may not have found her way to the State House yet.

If you suffered property damage from the town – i.e. your road is plowed by Charlestown DPW – you can try to file a claim. Unless you are a regular CCA Party political supporter, don’t be surprised if you have to fight.

Charlestown is a “pay to play” town and town staff, if they want to keep their jobs, know they must adhere to the CCA Party’s rules.

After Nemo in 2013, a Charlestown homeowner was shocked to discover that Charlestown DPW had chopped down and hauled away a beautiful stand of birch trees. DPW claimed the trees were bent over and impeding traffic (not true) and they didn’t just cut those trees, and those trees alone, just because of the nice wood.

It took months of legal hassling before that homeowner reached a settlement with the town.