Islip Town officials are estimating Hurricane Sandy's cleanup and recovery costs could total close to $50 million, a significant figure for a municipality that is already strapped for cash.
"We've been in fiscal crisis for over a year. It's hard to balance the cost for what you might have to do right now while waiting for reimbursement from the federal government, that can take over a year," said Inez Birbiglia, a spokesperson for Islip Town.
More than half of the historic storm's $50 million in damages was done at the Town's parks and recreational facilities, specifically its beaches and marinas. Early estimates place the cost of restoring these facilities at $29 million, according to Birbiglia.
The Town Board recently approved a $2.5 million contract for clean up and repair of East Islip Marina in hopes of having it open for residents by this summer.
Even smaller beaches, like Islip Beach, suffered considerable damage from Sandy and will be costly to repair. Strong winds and high tides nearly washed away the concession stand at Islip Beach, as well as ripping up the decking and boards. The estimated cost of repair is $825,000, which includes combing through the sand for dangerous debris such as nails or splintered wood.
Repairing these and other park and recreational facilities quickly is crucial for Islip, as the Town's marinas and docks bring in more than $2 million in revenue annually.
To help receive federal assistance as quickly as possible, the Town Board recently approved hiring an outside consultant to help employees fill out forms for FEMA reimbursements.
"We are required to fill out a FEMA worksheet for every project. It's quite detailed requiring information on damages and original estimates. Then you have to speak with contractors. You have to follow the procedure to be reimbursed," Birbiglia said.
It's not clear how much FEMA will reimburse Islip as negotiations are still taking place. After Hurricane Irene, FEMA reimbursed Islip 75 percent of approved projects with another 12.5 percent covered by state aid.
Meanwhile, Islip officials have had to shift capital funds away from other projects to cover storm recovery costs. Maple Avenue Dock Construction has been put on hold and two pools, Casamento Pool and Robert Clemente Park, will be closed for the summer.