MALONE — Franklin County will apply for federal funds to buy out 10 flood-damaged homes in the 300 block of Lower Park Street.
That neighborhood has flooded in the winter and spring for years. So far this year, a huge ice jam sent the Salmon River over its banks in January, and then torrential rain last week inundated the properties again.
But even if the buyout application is successful, it can take up to two years to complete, which means owners may have at least one more cycle of flooding to endure.
County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost, who presided over a brief meeting Monday with town and county officials to discuss their options, said the proposed mitigation on Lower Park would happen in two phases.
First, the properties on the west side of the street would be purchased, demolished and hauled away and the vacated land would be brought back to its original form.
Then, the roadway would be raised 15 to 20 feet and reconfigured so homes on the east side would be protected.
County legislators will be updated on the mitigation plans at their regular meeting Thursday, but the three attending the meeting Monday — Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay), Sue Robideau (R-Brushton) and Marc “Tim” LaShomb (R-Malone) — believe the plan will be approved easily.
ADDING UP DAMAGES
Once the legislators sign off, Provost would file a letter of intent to participate in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program with the State Office of Emergency Services, explaining the history of flooding and scope of the damage, as well as an overview of what mitigation would be performed.
He said the property losses on Lower Park Street may total about $1 million, which is a fraction of other parts of the state, where average home values are closer to $300,000 to $400,000 each.
Along with the Lower Park Street proposal, Provost said he will send two letters of intent for mitigation of two other flood-related issues: the lack of water-monitoring equipment in Chasm Falls and Westville and perhaps Ballard Mill, and the stabilization of roadside banks on County Road 25 (Duane Street Road) between Hicks Road and Cox Road.
He said the monitoring equipment would cost between $30,000 and $40,000. It would not only relay daily water-level readings to his Emergency Services Dispatch Center but to the National Weather Service as well.
Cost estimates to mitigate the Route 25 problems have not been calculated yet.
Funding is available starting with damages that occurred as of June 30, 2012, to the present, following presidential disaster declarations made for Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy.
The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer money to states, which then open the fund stream up to counties and municipalities so they can carry out hazard-mitigation projects like the ones identified in Malone.
FEMA would reimburse 75 percent of the eligible costs, and the other 25 percent would come from in-kind services or provided materials or from property owners.
Town Supervisor Howard Maneely said four of the 10 impacted properties have signed on for the buyout and that three others plan to but haven’t filed paperwork yet.
He said he will meet again with those who had not been interested and explain the mitigation plan.
Eminent domain does not apply, so the town or county cannot take possession of the reluctant owners’ damaged homes.
But officials can send code-enforcement officers in to possibly condemn the buildings or cite the owners for health and safety violations, giving them 30 days to bring their property up to proper code or face fines and penalties.
Provost said the health and safety of the homeowners involved is the most important aspect of the mitigation.
“We’ve got to keep our eye on the prize, and that’s getting those people out of there,” he said.
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Flood waters have receded in Saranac Lake and Fort Covington, but some damaged roads remain closed in Franklin County.
The spillway over the Saranac Lake dam is normally 10 inches of water, but it reached a high of 19 inches at one point during the worst of the flooding last week, said County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost.
"It's about at 15 inches this morning, so there's been 5 inches of relief," he said. "And the water's back to normal in Fort Covington. But we have roads out here and there."
Roads still closed Monday included Studley Hill Road, California Road and Ayres Road, which are in the towns of Malone and Duane, and Wolf Pond Road and Ragged Lake Road in the Town of Bellmont.