City Emergency Management Director Paul Estefan carefully watched the Kennedy Avenue dump site where storm debris was stored, but he was carrying a clip board, and he was getting reports daily from city workers who were following federal clean-up crews.
The federal contractor on the clean-up, Ashbritt, had its own federal monitor, SAIC, but Estefan was still minding the store closely.
Estefan said repeatedly in 2011 FEMA would only pay legitimate costs. If Danbury was negligent about where trees were picked up, FEMA would leave those clean-up costs for Danbury to pay. Estefan said his goal was to keep Danbury's bill down as low as possible.
Estefan learned this approach when working for FEMA on disasters in California, Iowa, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. He worked in a variety of jobs, including commodities distribution, debris monitoring, incident management and now as an operations specialist.
When Danbury was handed a $3.8 million bill in April, Estefan said no. He said that number needed to be proven. Since then, Estefan and City Finance Director David St. Hilaire have been sifting through daily logs and reports.
"I want to thank personally Mr. Paul Estefan and Mr. David St. Hilaire for the work they did," said City Council Member Tom Saadi. "They got a lot more back in reimbursements than expected. We're in a lot better shape than we were a couple of months ago."
Of the total bill, Danbury would be responsible for 25 percent, with FEMA paying the other 75 percent. Any part of FEMA's portion that it didn't pay would be added to Danbury's portion.
The first total bill, $3.8 million in April, left Danbury apparently owing nearly $1 million. Through the city's efforts, the total bill was lowered to $3.5 million because some debris may have come from other towns, and those loads were subtracted. Another $25,000 in tree trimming billed in Danbury was done in another town, knocking that off the bill.
Next, the city discovered two roads in Danbury, Middle River Road and Long Ridge Road, had been designated federal highways before 1957, when President Eisenhower created the national highway network. All the clearing on those roads was covered 100 percent by FEMA. The city rebuilt a bridge on Middle River Road this summer that was damaged by Storm Alfred, and that $366,000 project was repaid to the city.
Then the city was reimbursed for its overtime, its equipment and truck costs.
"We got in $2,486,000 from FEMA and we aren't sending out any more money," Estefan said. "I knew what we had to do."