Press-Republican

May 18, 2013

Flood victims face long process

By DENISE A. RAYMO Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Lower Park Street residents harmed by chronic flooding must wait until the next disaster declaration to see if money is there to move buy out their damaged homes.

They were told by state officials Thursday to start gathering the necessary paperwork to prove their losses so when another presidential declaration is made, their application for help is ready to process.

That news wasn’t exactly what the 20 people who attended a meeting in the Malone Town Office were expecting when they were briefed by Marlene White and Joseph Sikora of the State Office of Emergency Management.

The pair explained that its mitigation-grant program would pay them 75 percent of the pre-flood value of their homes or pay for 75 percent of the cost to relocate a residence.

But the pool of money comes only after a disaster declaration is made by the president and the state opens eligibility for those available funds to those who sustained other losses in prior, unrelated events like localized flooding.

Only municipalities in counties that have a disaster-mitigation plan are eligible for funding when a presidential declaration is made, and Franklin County does have a plan, Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost said.

EVACUATIONS

Homeowners in the 300 block of Lower Park have been dealing with annual winter flooding for years as the Salmon River became shallower and shoals began forming where the flow of water has virtually stopped.

Water that was once several feet deep has been reduced to just a few inches, forcing sheets of thick ice to form on the river — such as the 4,000-foot ice jam that clogged the river in January.

The water in that area has nowhere to go except over backyards and into buildings and, eventually, the street itself, forcing evacuations and road closure.

“This basically killed my mother,” said Martin Lamica of 356 Lower Park, referring to the impact the latest flooding had on Vivian Lamica, who died in March.

Being forced from her home and unable to return because of excessive mold “was less reason she had to live. She knew she wasn’t going to be back in her home,” he said. 

MAN-MADE DISASTER

Neighbor Ronald Benware sympathized, saying, everyone knew “Vivian always wanted to die at home, and it’s sad she didn’t.

“But nothing’s going to change,” he said, noting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department of Environmental Conservation say it would cost $7 million to dredge the river, but the problem of silt deposits would eventually return.

“I love the area, and the neighbors are the best, but if (the Corps and DEC) are not dredging, we’ve got to go,” said Benware, who operates a senior-housing unit at 377 Lower Park. 

“This is a man-made disaster that’s played out over many years.”

TOWN GETS FINAL SAY

Town Supervisor Howard Maneely said four families have already said they would be submitting a letter of intent to the town, which is the first step to pursue mitigation through the Emergency Services Office.

“But even if we only got one, we’d pursue it,” he said.

The supervisor said he will hand-deliver a thick packet of information he received from the state to each homeowner, outlining the information that must be submitted to participate.     

The town gathers that information and submits an application on homeowners’ behalf.

The Town Council would have the final say to see if mitigation for so few properties would be worth the effort or not.

“I believe the Town Council will back this 100 percent, but I will ask them Wednesday night,” when the regular monthly meeting is held at 6 p.m. 

LENGTHY PROCESS

The state can take up to a year to go over an application before it is submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Then that agency also has a year to act on it before homeowners would see any money — if any federal-disaster funds become available.

She said a state-certified appraiser determines a pre-damage value on each participating parcel, and the town submits the information to the state.

Then, if all goes well, a buyout or relocation offer is made at 75 percent of the pre-damage value.

“Once the closing is done, the town owns the property,” White said. 

The other 25 percent of support would come from the town, which can be done through in-kind services, such as demolition and removal of the damaged home and debris.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com