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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 16, 2009

Costly flood repairs may not be covered by feds

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT— Because the violent storm on July 1 was not widespread, Altamont will likely not receive compensation for repairs and cleanup from the federal government.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency compensates based on the cost of damages per county and Altamont’s damages alone will not meet the minimum threshold, which is decided by county. Mayor James Gaughan says he is considering sending a survey to get specific damage costs of the storm from neighboring municipalities and to see whether the combined costs of the storm would make Albany County eligible for federal compensation. 

At the July 7 village board meeting, Gaughan said that the village had received a $10,000 check from FEMA for the damages from the February winter storm, which would be deposited into the village’s general funds and used to cover the costs from the July 1 storm.

“We do have funds that we can divert from this until we see if we can connect ourselves to the same bandwagon,” said Gaughan. “I will be contacting the mayor of Cohoes to see how they got ball rolling for funding from the governor.”

The storm, which hit the afternoon of July 1, first dumped over four inches of rain in Knox, sending debris and floodwater down the Helderberg escarpment onto the village before the rain even started to fall.  In total, Altamont received three inches of rain in what Timothy McIntyre, the head of public works for the village, described as a “localized storm.”

“The creek rose real fast before we got any rain to speak of,” said McIntyre. “I saw some guy on an inner tube going down Altamont Boulevard, there was so much water and debris coming down the creeks.”

McIntyre said his department was still working to clear the culverts of debris, which was stopping the flow of water and causing floods and erosion along the roadways.

One house, at 132 Prospect Terrace, stood directly in the way of the flow from a culvert that had been rendered useless by the onslaught of debris.

The trapped water rose up over the road and started flowing directly towards the house, at which point McIntyre received the call for help. In the middle of the storm, McIntyre and his team used a backhoe to dig gravel out and create a berm across the road to deflect the water away from the house.

“You’re just trying to save property at that point in time,” said McIntyre. “It’s a reaction to protect private property. I bounced all over that night.”

Other business

The board also:

— Approved by unanimous vote a resolution to accept $300 donated from the proceeds of the May 31 “Salute to Our Heroes” celebration to be dedicated to the village’s Capital Reserve Fund for future improvements at the Crounse House. (The mayor hopes the historic but long-neglected house, now owned jointly by the village of Altamont and the town of Guilderland, will one day house the village museum.)

Prior to accepting the donation, the board heard from Cindy Pollard who helped to organize the event. Pollard said that the money for the Crounse House came from Bill and Nancy Turner, owners of the Stone House Bed and Breakfast, who asked that the payment for the accommodation of two of the Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the May event be donated.

Trustee Christine Marshall thanked Pollard for “her extraordinary effort, for which she deserved a lot of kudos”;

— Heard from Trustee Bill Aylward that the board was in discussions with Fire Chief Paul Miller about obtaining a Knox Box. Building Inspector Donald Cropsey Jr. explained that a Knox Box is a safe containing the key or keys to buildings that can only be opened by a dispatcher in case of emergencies. Fire departments use Knox Boxes to minimize damage to properties when entry into a locked building is necessary;

— Heard from McIntyre that, since the May board meeting, the public works department has continued to test the water on Brandle Road. Villagers had complained about dirty water after the village’s annual flushing and a water main break that occurred around the same time. McIntyre said that since the twice-weekly tests have come back clean, the public works department would begin testing the water once a week;

— Authorized Mayor Gaughan to sign a New York State Office of the Aging contract to receive Grant-in-Aid funding of $5,000 to be used toward purchasing a new senior van;

— Authorized Gaughan to authorize RBC Wealth Management to issue a lump-sum payment of $2,525.98 to Lee Empie, beneficiary of deceased participant, Jean Yuhas, a former Altamont Fire Department member;

— Approved the village to become a Select Employer Group member of SEFCU Bank as a personnel benefit to village employees. Gaughan said that membership would include access to seminars about money management;

— Approved a salary increase for John Schultz, lifeguard, from $9.75 per hour to $10.20 per hour due to receiving RTE (Responding to Emergencies) Certification, as requested by the village clerk, Patty Blackwood; and

— Approved hiring Brian O’Connor of Guilderland at $9.50 per hour for the Bozenkill Park Summer Recreation Program to replace Caitlin Willsey, which was also requested by Blackwood.

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