JAY — Flood waters spawned by Tropical Storm Irene deposited tons of debris all around Essex County.
The question now is who should pay to remove it from private property.
Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas, who is chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, is spearheading a push to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency pick up the tab so property owners in Jay and other affected towns aren’t forced to pay higher taxes to cover the bill.
Jay already had to borrow $3 million just to cover safety issues in the immediate wake of Irene, and the town is at its borrowing limit.
Douglas recently met with Phil Parr, federal coordinating officer for Hurricane Irene, along with a host of state and county officials, to tour several debris fields in the Town of Jay. They hoped to convince Parr that the debris constitutes a public-safety hazard; it’s Parr’s office that will have the final decision on FEMA funding.
“FEMA’s telling me that because they don’t qualify as an immediate threat, the responsibility should be on the local property owner,” Douglas said.
FEMA’s position, he said, is that landowners should bear the cost and that the town could force removal by enforcing local codes about garbage dumping if they don’t comply.
“It’s like rubbing salt in a wound. It’s like saying, ‘O.K., you’ve been flooded, you’ve lost everything you own; now you have other people’s debris on your property, and if you don’t get rid of it, I’m going to write you a ticket’,” Douglas said.
“I’m not doing that.”
After a brief meeting at the Jay Town Offices and a stop at the Upper Jay Fire Station, a long caravan of cars and pickup trucks parked in a sandy field adjacent to the former Land of Make Believe property for the first stop on its tour.