NORWICH – The fact that county officials don’t expect individuals and business owners to receive flood disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for at least a year doesn’t sit well with at least one town supervisor.
“It’s critical to say to the powers that be that we need the money in this fiscal year,” Town of Smyrna Supervisor James B. Bays said Monday during July’s board meeting. “My town wasn’t hit hard at all compared to in the southern parts, but a year to 18 months is unacceptable for all who suffered damages.”
The Chenango County Emergency Management Office estimates a total of $7 million in damages to villages, towns, the City of Norwich and county infrastructure from the heavy flooding the region suffered two weeks ago. There were approximately $2 to $3 million in road and bridge repair damages alone, and the highway department expects to be two years behind in regular maintenance by the time the clean up is finished.
The City of Norwich estimates $1.2 million in infrastructure damages and 37 homes received moderate to major water damage.
The amount of damages far exceeds what’s required for FEMA designation. “It’s seems incredible to me. If we’ve reached our criteria for designation, why can’t the federal government put money in our coffers right away?” Bays asked.
“I agree with you,” Board Chairman Richard B. Decker said. “If we can get the appropriate people in higher places ... They need to be made aware of that to see if they can appropriate funds.” However, both Decker and Chenango County Public Works Director Randy Gibbon explained to Bays and other town supervisors that the recovery application process is lengthy and that previous FEMA funds have taken sometimes up to 18 months.
A spokesperson from U.S. Congressman Sherwood Boehlert said Monday if funding from FEMA is not coming quickly enough, that the Congressman “would move to expedite FEMA to the most affected as soon as possible.”
Supervisors in the towns of Bainbridge and Afton - where the heaviest water damage occurred - were most concerned about the funding lag. “I’m afraid we’ll both be very old men before we see relief from FEMA,” Robert D. Briggs, R-Afton, said. Only two-thirds of Afton has thus far been cleaned up. Finding temporary housing will be the town’s biggest challenge, he said. “It’s going to be expensive and take a long time to finish.”