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Strasburg gets $405K for Sandy repairs

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg can expect financial assistance in repairs to damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last October.

The town will receive $405,000 in grant funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Community Development Block Grant program for the rehabilitation of Ash Street, Gov. Bob McDonnell's office announcement Monday.

The grants are administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

Town Manager Judson Rex said he was excited that Strasburg would receive the entire amount requested through the grant program.

"It's a lot of work that needs to be done," Rex said.

Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to Ash and West King Streets, as well as to the Riverwalk, parking lot and boat ramp at the Shenandoah River. A state of emergency was declared for the town on Oct. 26, 2012.

Town crews made temporary repairs to both Ash and West King streets shortly after the storm. Work included filling in the parts of Ash Street washed away by the storm surge that had overtaken the culvert. Crews reconnected the water and sewer lines, but only as a stopgap until the town could make a more permanent solution.

"We made it passable but we definitely need to get in and make the permanent repairs," Rex said.

The money will allow the town to replace the culvert under Ash Street with a larger storm drain, Rex explained. The grant includes funding to cover new water and sewer lines that run along Ash Street and were damaged by the storm, he said.

The town still must go through the normal procurement and bidding process to find a contractor to perform the work on Ash Street. Rex explained that the town must complete environmental work on the site prior to construction.

"Now that we know that we have the funding for it, we can start to move forward with planning the project out," Rex said.

As Rex explained, the grant is awarded through a reimbursement program, meaning the town can expect to receive up to $405,000 for the rehabilitation work performed on Ash Street. The town will submit its requests for reimbursements as the work progresses, Rex said.

Town officials sought grant funds for the Ash Street work through the Urgent Needs program rather than directly from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

"We were concerned about FEMA's ability to fund all the improvements on Ash Street and so we sought out this additional funding through the Urgent Need program," Rex recalled.

At the same time, West King Street sustained more damage to the road than Ash Street, Rex explained. So far the town has spent just under $100,000 on West King Street. Town Council allocated up to $250,000 on the West King Street rehabilitation, Rex said.

Strasburg has sought reimbursement from FEMA and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for the West King Street repairs, Rex said. The town submitted the necessary documents and is awaiting the agencies' responses.

The town also spent $48,000 on repairs to the Riverwalk - work completed within a month after the storm. Strasburg submitted a reimbursement request to FEMA for this work, Rex said.

Eligible projects under the specific block grant program are designed to alleviate existing conditions that pose a threat to the health and welfare of the community when the conditions developed or became urgent within 18 months of the date the proposal is submitted.

Virginia receives approximately $17 million each year through the federal Community Development Block Grant Program, administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Development through a competitive process. Most projects benefit low- and moderate-income residents and target the elimination of slums and blight.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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