| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – With the announcement of the release of $13.6 million in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the city of Springfield has almost completed the funding for the restoration of city properties from the damage done by the June 1, 2011 tornado.
According to Chief Administrative and Finance Office TJ Plante, there are still appeals ongoing concerning funds from the damage to the former Zanetti School – which was being used as a storage facility by the city – and to the restoration of Ruth Elizabeth Park in the Maple High Six Corners neighborhood.
Mayor Domenic Sarno and Congressman Richard Neal made the announcement on April 11 at a press conference in City Hall.
The $13.6 million is reimbursement from FEMA that covers 61 percent of the cost of the new South End Community Center and the new Senior Center in Blunt Park. Of the sum, $6 million will go to the community center, which has a projected budget of $10.29 million, while $7.6 million will be allocated to the senior center that has a $12 million projected budget.
Sarno said the city should break ground on the South End Community Center later this year.
Neal explained the reimbursement was the product of appeals to FEMA. He said the city was able to show through an appeals process the money originally offered to the city was not adequate.
Plante thanked Joshua Norman, president of Resilire, who was the consultant the city hired to guide officials through the appeals process.
Plante said that when all of the state and federal monies have been tallied so far, the city has leveraged $50 million of its own funds to receive $340 million.
Neal added those figures do not include the federal monies involved in the building of the new Pope Francis High School to replace the damaged Cathedral High School. “I think FEMA has done very well by the city, “ Neal said. “After the tornado, you didn’t hear anyone say, ‘There’s too much government.’”
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