Mark Lovewell

The region’s first federal disaster aid briefing begins this morning in Edgartown as officials scramble to fund reconstruction and cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Bob.

Town civil defense directors meet with Richard Nocella, a Federal Emergency station at 11 this morning. FEMA representatives will hold sessions in the hurricane-torn countries of Barnstable, Bristol, Plymouth, Essex and Middlesex in the coming week.

A disaster field office opened in Hyannis Friday to coordinate relief work throughout the Cape and Islands. The aid network, including FEMA, the Small Business Administration, The Farmer’s Home Administration and the state Division of Employment and Training, was hammered together within four days of record following New England’s most devastating hurricane. The governor estimates the August 19 storm left $1 billion in total damages to the commonwealth.

Relief workers opened a disaster information hotline Friday. FEMA staff will answer questions about the array of services available which range from tax deductions, loans and direct aid to legal services and counseling for anyone in the disaster area.

Small Business Administration staff will be on Martha’s Vineyard for three days next week advising businessmen, farmers and homeowners on low-interest disaster loans. SBA briefing sessions are scheduled at the HarborsideInn from Sept. 11 to 13. Loan officers will take applications from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Today’s session in Edgartown begins at 11 a.m. and centers on direct aid from roads and buildings. Tax restrictions and falling state benefits have made even minor budget overruns in the six Island towns a serious concern.

Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci, FEMA coordinating director Richard Strome and representatives of all satellite assistance programs met at the statehouse Friday to organize the aid scaffolding that was assembled almost overnight.

“What would have been a significant impact to the taxpayers in terms of expenditure of state and local dollars, will now be relieved by this great assistance form the federal government. Given the fiscal condition of the commonwealth, the cities and towns, it is certainly most needed,” Mr. Cellucci said.

Now that relief is flowing into the state, FEMA assessment teams will return to the area from a better look at the damage left by Hurricane Bob. The preliminary estimate of public costs to the Island totals $2.5 million.

The town break down is as follows:

Gay Head, $23,050; Chilmark, $213,500; West Tisbury, $227,000; Tisbury, $259,000; Oak Bluffs, $1.1 million; Edgartown, $717,000.

Damage to private property here is close to $4 million, civil defense officials said. Edgartown harbor was the site of close to $3 million in damage to pleasure boats as Bob rocked the Island’s southernmost harbor. Second homes and luxury items are not eligible for state or federal funds, but FEMA offers counseling on filing insurance claims, obtaining copies of lost policies and documenting damage.

The Hyannis disaster relief office was open through the weekend and operators took a steady stream of questions. Work on a comprehensive damage survey will begin before the end of the month. The question most troubling to local officials now is not if there will be aid, but when.