November 26, 2014
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FEMA official applauds city on reporting for Sandy funds

As the saying goes, “The early bird gets the worm.”

In this case, the bird is the city of Warwick, or more accurately Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong and Christy Woodbury of the Department of Public Works. And the juicy worm is Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursements for money spent on Superstorm Sandy.

In fact, Warwick did such a great job of documenting its expenses and filling out all the paperwork, that FEMA project specialist Richard Hendricks took the time to write the mayor.

Hendricks said Monday that he usually doesn’t follow up with letters, but in this case he was impressed and, “I like to give people credit when they’ve done a good job.”

In his letter, Hendricks said that, during preliminary damage assessments, Armstrong, who is the city’s director of emergency management, had most of the information needed before FEMA even asked for it. Hendricks was also impressed with Armstrong’s demeanor.

“In all cases from the first day, he has met us with ease, humor and efficiently gathering anything we may need,” he wrote.

In talking Monday, Hendricks concluded that Armstrong has had considerable experience following the floods of 2010 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, FEMA received 190 requests for reimbursements from 74 applicants. As of this week, about 2 percent of the $14.6 million earmarked in FEMA storm-related funding for the state has been obligated. That $450,000 includes the $220,000 Warwick gets.

Hendricks applauded Woodbury for her organization and completion of reports and worksheets in one day.

“This kind of turnaround of information is very rare in our business,” Hendricks wrote.

Hendricks described his job as a hybrid between an insurance adjuster and a grant writer. He must assess the damages, and the request for payments, and then approve the funding.

FEMA is paying for 75 percent of city storm-related costs, such as debris removal and overtime. As Hendricks described it, “We’re in partnership with the state,” meaning that the funds flow to the state and the state will cut a check to the city.

In his letter, Hendricks mentioned that he is a former mayor and said to Avedisian that he understands “your image and the image of your community depends a great deal on the actions of your staff.”

He goes on to say that in his business, “This kind of efficient cooperation and patient understanding of our sometimes cumbersome requests is very rare.”

Hendricks was the mayor of Wheeler, Ore., a small town with a population of 400. Hendricks said the job was all-consuming because everybody knew him and he knew them. He said he heard about every problem in the town.

Perhaps that explains why he appreciates people who get the job done, not only quickly, but with “all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted.”


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