FEMA administrator tours Milford to see Sandy damage

William Craig Fugate, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), toured Milford, Stratford and Bridgeport Tuesday to assess damage and talk to local leaders.

Fugate, FEMA’s top dog, was greeted by a swarm of FEMA workers at the old Simon Lake School, which is now a Disaster Recovery Center, or DRC as it has quickly come to be known.

Marvin Davis, who also works for FEMA, said Fugate came to check on the government employees stationed here to make sure they are doing their jobs, and to then tour the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal showed up, too, as did Mayor Ben Blake. Fugate chatted with Blumenthal about funding that will be available through FEMA. He said he expects that $1 billion earmarked for Sandy recovery overall will have to be supplemented by programs from other agencies, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Fugate told Blumenthal his goal Tuesday was to assess damage and get an idea of where funding should be targeted. He mentioned putting the idea of “redevelopment” over rebuilding and repairing.

The contingent of government and city officials headed to East Broadway first after leaving Simon Lake. Some homes were ripped apart and many were flooded for several days in that area of Milford.

Recovery coordinator Bill Richards said recovery efforts along Milford’s shoreline “are slow but steady.”

The recovery center at Simon Lake provides residents with FEMA officers and loan experts to help them through the government assistance process.

There are phones at the center so people can call FEMA and register then and there. Calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 is the way to get the process started. People may also start the process at the FEMA website. It is registering that actually puts people in line for assistance, Davis said.

A steady stream of residents has been going to Simon Lake for help since the center opened.

“It’s been slow at times,” Davis said. “People are involved in their own recovery, and sometimes it takes awhile to realize they have to register.”

One woman who was filling out paperwork with a FEMA officer on Tuesday said she is frustrated because the city has not let her turn the electricity back on yet at the rental property she owns near Silver Sands Beach.

She said the process of getting information has been frustrating and difficult.