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FEMA to foot $7 million of Schoharie County repair bill

County office complex damaged by Tropical Storm Irene

April 25, 2013
Updated 8:17 p.m.
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— The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to provide almost $7 million for repairs to the Schoharie County Office Complex.

The funding is part of almost $30 million in federal money announced Thursday afternoon for sites throughout the state, including the Erie Canal locks, damaged by tropical storms Irene and Lee and Superstorm Sandy. Distributing the money falls to the state government, which will also pay a portion of the project costs.

According to Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry, reconstruction of the complex is expected to cost more than $10 million. About $1 million of the cost will be covered by insurance, while the state has committed to cover 25 percent and the $6.87 million from FEMA represents the remaining funding.

“This project will essentially be 100 percent funded,” he said. “We’ve already been spending the money, paying the contractors, anticipating that the [FEMA] funding would come through.”

The first phase of work, on the interior of the complex, is expected to be done in late May, said Cherry, with Department of Motor Vehicles, County Clerk’s Office, court and other staff returning in June.

The county had to borrow some money for upfront costs and is planning some renovations FEMA won’t cover, so it is estimated the total cost to the county will be about $500,000. The first phase has an estimated cost of about $5 million, and the second phase, which includes exterior work, also will cost about $5 million.

“What this grant means is that we are now authorized to go on to phase two, which is exterior flood mitigation,” Cherry said, including recessed floodgates and hurricane-proof windows.

U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who represents the county, called the announcement great news that will help the community recover.

“Everyone remembers the devastation suffered as a result of {Tropical Storm] Irene, and we are still rebuilding,” he said. “It has been my priority to make certain that we have the federal resources we need.”

The FEMA money also includes about $1.77 million for repair and restoration of the Erie Canal’s lock and dam system, which was damaged by Irene and Lee, and about $1.8 million for work on the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project. U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, highlighted the money for the damaged locks along the Mohawk River, which he said is crucial for the canal system.

Debris in the river and winds from Irene and Lee caused extensive damage to the facilities and erosion of surrounding areas. Repair and restoration is under way, with an estimated price tag of $2.36 million. That is only a small portion of the repairs, which the state earlier this year estimated would total more than $40 million.

“While we have surely waited a long time for this funding, we haven’t forgotten about the immense need for assistance and relief in the Mohawk and Schoharie valleys,” Tonko said. “I fought hard for these funds behind closed doors in Washington, D.C., as well as on the floor of the House of Representatives, when many said we couldn’t afford it.”

There is still more work to be done, Cherry stressed, noting that the county’s Public Safety Building needs about $35 million in repairs. It had housed inmates, the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices and other staff.

Cherry said the public safety project is under review by FEMA, which could cover 75 percent of the costs of fixing that building, as well.

“I will continue to be an advocate for Schoharie County and upstate New York in this recovery,” Gibson said.

 
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