Schenectady County

Scotia to waive disputed charge

Scotia residents cleaning up from flood damage will no longer have to pay to obtain permits to repla
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Scotia residents cleaning up from flood damage will no longer have to pay to obtain permits to replace their water heaters and furnaces.

The village Board of Trustees Wednesday agreed to waive the $25 fee for residents swamped by Irene’s high water. The Mohawk River flooded out Schonowee Avenue, Washington Avenue and other low-lying areas.

Under the village’s code, residents are required to replace their water heater or furnace if it is submerged. Village officials must inspect them to make sure they are installed properly; the fee is $25 per furnace or heater.

Mayor Kris Kastberg said he received two calls from residents asking if the fee could be forgiven because of the scope of the disaster. Building Inspector Luis Aguero also suggested that the fees be waived even before the calls began, according to Kastberg.

Since the village wasn’t expecting the revenue from this many people installing new heating equipment, Kastberg said the village could afford the lost funds — which he estimated would total about $2,000.

“If somebody has a fire you don’t forgive the fees,” he said. “You have to think of the precedent you’re setting, but this is so unusual.”

Trustee Tom Gifford agreed that it would seem like “adding insult to injury” to charge residents.

Kastberg said the village would get the word out to people who already paid the fee that they can receive a refund.

“It’s a small gesture, but hopefully people appreciate it,” he said.

Residents irritated

Some residents had protested the fact that the village was still insisting on collecting the fee. One woman who did not give her name said Tuesday her house needed a new water heater and furnace and she felt she was being nickel-and-dimed by the village.

“Everything in my basement floated away,” she said.

About 32 buildings were flooded, primarily along Washington Avenue and Schonowee Avenue. Aguero said he condemned one house on Washington Avenue, as well as two other additions to homes.

He added that it is important for people to go through the permit process so village officials can make sure contractors are above board and will do good work.

“We could have anybody walk in and say they’re going to do this and inflate the price or do shabby work. We don’t want that,” he said.

Residents were still busy cleaning up Wednesday afternoon. Amanda Chlopecki said the water came up her hips in her Schonowee Avenue home.

“Everything had to be thrown out,” she said. “The walls are getting ripped out right now.”

How to help

There are many ways to help the people, schools and organizations hurt by the floods. Here are some links and ideas:

Gino Juracka was renovating a house on Schonowee when flooding hit, filling the basement and part of the first floor. “Thank God it only had the studs in,” he said, but all that initial work will have to be redone.

He said he is frustrated with the federal bureaucracy and put a sign on a tree in front of his house saying “FEMA is a joke.” But he had high praise for local responders.

“The Salvation Army and the Red Cross have been absolutely phenomenal,” he said.

Collins Park cleanup

The village is also trying to clean up the extensive damage to Collins Park. Parks Superintendent Jim Marx said every building in the park had water damage and Beach Road was washed out. The village’s park maintenance building has been gutted, sheet rock removed and it is drying. It lost its hot water tank and most of the furniture and appliances inside.

Floodwaters lifted the park’s ticket booth and pushed it against the front door of one of the buildings. The picnic tables and youth baseball bleachers were all thrown about by the waters.

Marx said the ground is still so soggy that workers cannot get to all sections of the park.

“There’s still water draining from the park into the lake. That’s how wet it is down there,” he said.

Workers have been repairing sinkholes, removing debris and cleaning out buildings.

Marx could not say when the park would be reopened. Until Beach Road is fixed, nobody will be able to access those parking facilities.

Also, on the east side of the meadows there are about 25 felled trees, some stuck in the dock area.

Kastberg said he is still not sure what damage will be covered by insurance. FEMA has been assisting residential clients, and no meeting has been set up to assess storm damage to municipalities. Kastberg did not have an estimate of how much the village has spent on overtime costs.

Public Works Superintendent Andrew Kohout said crews have been working to repair a large sinkhole on Washington Avenue. Trustee Tom Neals, who lives on Washington Avenue, expressed gratitude for how the village handled the disaster.

“Many of my residents came to me and said ‘I’ll never complain about our village taxes again because of the great service we got,’ ” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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