Residents of Hartford’s North End plagued by long-term flooding issues can start applying on Sept. 1 for financial relief through a new state-funded $5 million pilot program that will be administered by a doctor who grew up in that area.
State Comptroller Sean Scanlon and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin introduced Dr. Gary Rhule, the man appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont to oversee the delegation of funds from the newly created Hartford Flood Compensation program.
The $5 million fund is a piece of the $170 million project that Lamont, federal and state officials announced 45 days ago to deal with systemic flooding issues in the city’s North End.
Scanlon’s office has been put in charge of overseeing the fund, which will be administered by Rhule. The state has set up a website for residents and business owners to submit their applications.
Scanlon said once Rhule starts taking applications on Sept. 1, it will take about 60 days for the application to be reviewed and approved. At a press conference Thursday on the steps of the Blue Hills Civic Association’s offices, Scanlon said eligibility is restricted to residents of Hartford who own property or a business in the city.
Once Ruhle approves the application, the applicant must get an inspection report from a state-licensed adjuster or inspector or the MDC to verify the damages and submit that report to Ruhle for final approval.
“I know that people have been waiting for a very long time. But as soon as we get to September 1, within 60 days, we can start getting people the help that they deserve,” Scanlon said.
Rhule, who grew up in the North End, said he is eager to get the program up and running.
“The reason why this is so important is because this is part of the promise of having healthy homes and a healthy environment for our current residents as well as for future generations,” Ruhle said.
About $75,000 from the fund will go to the Blue Hills Civic Association to set up a flood assistance center in its Albany Avenue offices. Rhule also will be paid on a per diem basis from the fund.
House Speaker Matt Ritter, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Hartford’s West End, Upper Albany and Asylum Hill neighborhoods, said the $5 million is the starting point for the fund, and if more money is needed, the legislature will be prepared to act next session.
“I know there are people worried about how much money is in the fund. Is there enough money to cover all the flooding damages for Hartford residents? Let me say this, this is a pilot program that has never existed before in the history of the state of Connecticut. So to the extent that we find out there’s more homeowners than we thought, we’d go in next year and appropriate additional funds,” Ritter said.
“We really don’t know the scope of the problem. The estimates that we have are somewhere south of 1,000 properties — residents, businesses, renters — and it may be double that,” Ritter said.
He added that the estimated number of impacted properties comes from complaints to the MDC. He said the same complaint list was used to prioritize what projects would be done with the $170 million that was committed to fixing the flooding problems long-term.
The state is contributing half, or $85 million, to implement the pilot program that will address sewage overflows in streets, basements, homes and businesses in North Hartford.
The state’s share is coming from the Clean Water Fund, which is administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said the funds will be applied to 12 projects proposed by the Metropolitan District Commission to increase protections from sewer and stormwater-related flooding and backups in North Hartford. Five projects are slated to begin in 2023, six projects will begin in 2024, and one project will begin in 2025.
Officials expect the first shovels in the ground by the fall.
The rest of the funding will be provided by MDC, and Dykes said the agency has promised the project costs will be covered within the current MDC rate structure, with no impact on current rates.
Since officials announced the project 45 days ago, two more storms have caused flooding issues, including a storm on July 4th that flooded the basement of the North United Methodist Church and the building where the Blue Hills Civic Association is located.
Pastor Andrea Davidson said the basement flooded and the sewage backed up into the church sanctuary.
“Members of our church and members of the community are telling stories of how they’ve had flooding as far back as 2020 that eventually turned to mold, so we are really grateful to able to have this fund,” Davidson said.
Bronin referenced the July 4th flood in his remarks, noting there have been several storms in the 45 days since the state project was announced.
“This problem is huge, and the solution is not quick or easy,” Bronin said.
“We are seeing what were once-in-a-century storms happen once a year or twice a year or more now. The severity of the weather we’re seeing is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes, and the frequency of those storms will only increase, and we have storm sewer systems — not just here in Hartford, not just in the Hartford region but around the state and probably the country — that are built for a different area.”