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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 12, 2012

“This is huge”
State pays local share for storm recovery
By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALBANY COUNTY — As struggles continue in the wake of last summer’s tropical storms, local leaders reacted with relief and gratitude yesterday after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would cover the local share of response and recovery costs.

Usually, the Federal Emergency Management Agency covers three-quarters of eligible costs, with the remaining quarter — at 12.5 percent each — shared between the state and localities. The state is making $61 million available to 25 counties to cover the local costs for emergency shelter, road, water system and infrastructure repair, and for stream and riverbed mitigation, and other clean-up projects.

Albany County is estimated to have $15 million in recovery project costs; the local share to be covered by the state comes to $1,892,808. Hard-hit Schoharie County, where Cuomo made his announcement on Wednesday, is slated to get $12.8 million for projects totaling $102.6 million.

The governor’s office, which termed the destruction caused by tropical storms Irene and Lee “one of the largest disasters in the state’s history,” said recovery costs are expected to top $1.6 billion for about 15,000 projects. The state is covering the local share through funding put in place by the legislature and additional federal funds requested by the governor, his office said.

“This is obviously very good news,” said New Scotland Supervisor Thomas Dolin of the governor’s announcement. “We have spent money out of our highway budget to make the repairs. We were going to have to use reserves.”

Now, he said, that won’t be necessary. On Jan. 1, the town’s highway department budget for 2012 of $1,823,000 had a deficit of about $200,000.

So far, New Scotland has submitted $267,000 in claims to FEMA to cover nine different recovery projects. “This will save us $33,000,” Dolin said of the state’s paying the local share.

Additionally, the town is spending $500,000 to repair the Wolf Hill bridge, which was ravaged by the summer flooding. So, Dolin calculated, the town will save $70,000 for what would have been its share of that project.

Dolin went on about the money for the nine recovery projects, “We’ve already spent the $267,000 out of the current budget; that normally would have been used to pave roads. Now, we will be able to proceed with our normal paving.”

He concluded of the governor’s announcement, “I think it’s welcome and shows a sensitivity to what small, rural communities were faced with after the storm. Even though the FEMA funds were substantial, it would have left the town with $100,000 to pay on its own.”

“For a small community, this is huge,” said Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier.

He estimated that Berne has $400,000 to $500,000 worth of repairs to do. Rebuilding the West Woodstock bridge alone, he said, is costing $120,000.

“I’d like to thank the governor for having the forethought to do this,” Crosier said. “He’s trying to put the state in fiscal shape, but it’s still important to help small communities.”

Crosier went on to point out that Berne’s only revenues are from sales tax and property taxes. “We try to keep it low,” he said of property taxes. “This is a huge relief for residents, who won’t have to pick up that tab.”

Westerlo’s supervisor, Richard Rapp, said his town had “better than a million dollars” worth of repairs. “We’re spending plenty,” he said. “We had to borrow money to do it.”

He went on about storm damage, “We got clobbered.” Lobdell Mill road is still closed, he said, and other roads that sustained severe damage, including Pine Valley, Boomhower, and Tan Hollow, are open but were costly to repair.

“FEMA has been here,” said Rapp. “They’re coming back next week. They pay the state and we get the money from the state.”

Of yesterday’s announcement that the state will pick up the local share, Rapp said, “I’m very happy.”

“It is welcome news,” agreed Knox’s supervisor, Michael Hammond. “It certainly will help.”

Knox’s highway superintendent, Gary Salisbury, is still completing project worksheets for FEMA but estimated that repair costs for Knox will total about $75,000.

“We had some pretty severe damage,” he said, noting that Line Road is still closed. Cross and Quay roads also “suffered a lot,” he said. “The rest was scattered around town.”

Asked abut Knox’s expenses being so much lower than the other Hilltowns, Salisbury said, “Over the years, we’ve just learned to work cheap, so we don’t make out with federal money…It’s just very efficient how we do things. We don’t have a lot of time. We just go in and do it. That’s what keeps the numbers down.”

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