Volunteers to get flood-damaged Fort Plain homes ready for winter

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
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— With cold weather approaching, skilled laborers from across the region will gather Saturday in Fort Plain for one final effort to get flood-damaged houses buttoned up before winter.

“If we don’t get this done,” Andy McPherson said, “some people will be in trouble.”

Back in June, the Otsquago Creek swelled beyond flood stage and rushed down into the village, impacting scores of homes and businesses and depositing untold tons of mud in basements.

It crippled the village, and even took the life of one resident whose mobile home was washed away, but the timing could have been worse.

Volunteers and homeowners had all summer to shovel mud and fix things. The Fulton-Montgomery Long Term Recovery Committee swung into action with volunteer days, raising funds and attempting to organize the chaos.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised $16 million in recovery funding to the four counties impacted by the flash flooding. Recently, a chunk of that money actually reached village residents. Much has been accomplished, but now cold weather is coming and some houses still aren’t ready for winter.

McPherson leads the construction subcommittee of the Fulton-Montgomery Long Term Recovery Committee. He’ll be directing skilled volunteers Saturday in an effort to winterize a half-dozen houses.

“We’re looking at insulating, fitting basement windows that were blown out by the flood,” he said. “We’ll do some Sheetrocking, too, but mostly we’re trying to seal out the elements.”

According to American Red Cross response manager and Long-Term Recovery Committee Chairman Michael Raphael, the six houses were chosen based on need.

The state money, while helpful, wasn’t enough to bring many village houses back to pre-flood condition. Many homeowners shelled out the difference, but some low-income residents didn’t have the savings to do this.

“We’re helping those people,” Raphael said.

The volunteer event also represents a shift in need. Raphael said it’s the first Fort Plain work day to concentrate on skilled labor.

In the first months after the flood, church groups and large numbers of volunteers descended on the village to muck out basements and remove trash. What’s left is more complicated.

“Three of the houses we’ll be working on still don’t have electricity,” McPherson said. “We have wiring and everything, but we need someone comfortable with laying wire.”

Raphael said getting skilled volunteers is chronically difficult in recovery situations. He said contractors tend to wonder why they should volunteer when homeowners with money are hiring. Despite this, he said, between 15 and 20 skilled workers are signed up. They’ll meet at Haslett Park at 8:30 a.m. and work until 4 p.m.

They plan to seal up the six houses in most need of help using materials purchased with donated money. Efforts will slow over the winter, but McPherson said there are still roughly 30 houses the committee is looking to work on in the spring.

Volunteers with construction experience looking to participate Saturday are asked to call the volunteer center at 705-8695.

 

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