Press-Republican

July 23, 2013

Essex, Clinton counties unsure on aid

BY LOHR McKINSTRY, Staff Writer and SUZANNE MOORE, News Editor
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Last week, Randy Douglas felt confident that Essex and Clinton counties would be added to the list of New York counties eligible for federal disaster aid after June’s flooding and severe storms.

By Monday, however, the Essex County Board of Supervisors chair (D-Jay) wasn’t quite so sure.

“We feel it’s coming,” he said from his office, “but I’m a little leery about it.”

STATE DECLARATION

On July 12, President Barack Obama declared Franklin County eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with 11 others: Allegany, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Otsego and Warren.

That declaration covers the period of June 28 to July 4.

The aid will be used to supplement state and local efforts to repair the damage done by the flooding.

Still waiting for federal word, along with Clinton and Essex counties, is Schoharie County, Douglas said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously issued a state disaster declaration for all 15 counties.

He requested the federal aid, as well, after preliminary assessments showed more than $32.7 million in damage to public infrastructure.

Severe flooding caused by persistent rains damaged structures, closed roads and forced people to flee their homes in some towns, including Chesterfield in Essex County.

QUESTION OF DATES

Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day has also been awaiting word on federal funding.

While he didn’t know for sure, he believes the holdup may be due to deliberation over expanding the original dates of the declaration.

His county needs at least $283,000 to qualify, a figure surpassed easily were the disaster dates changed to include even one more day.

The total for damages inflicted June 26 and 29 and July 4, Day said, is about $175,000. Add June 25’s $230,000, and that’s $405,000.

If the disaster period were to expand to include June 11, he said, there would be about $1 million more in damages added. 

That’s what Day is hoping will happen.

“We haven’t heard either way, so I don’t think we’re done,” he said. “We’re still optimistic.”

‘MET THRESHOLD’

Essex County also wants its early June disasters included.

“I have asked the Governor’s Office for help in getting the declaration back to June 10,” Douglas said.

He said loss figures for Essex County were finalized July 15 and Clinton County’s a few days earlier.

Essex County had more than $500,000 in storm destruction, officials said, with the minimum to qualify at about $135,000.

“I believe it’s just going through the process,” Douglas said of pending approval. “But until I see it’s definite, I’m still worried about it.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com