Officials hurry to find housing for Schoharie County flood victims

Federal, state and local officials were working Wednesday to iron out details for housing flood surv

Federal, state and local officials were working Wednesday to iron out details for housing flood survivors in Schoharie County as the region prepared for temperatures expected to drop below freezing overnight and well into today.

The effort is proceeding on two fronts: FEMA manufactured homes and the Summit Shock facility shuttered by the state earlier this year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had several manufactured homes transported to Cobleskill for use as temporary housing, and more units are on their way, according to FEMA spokesman Chris McKniff.

But getting those homes in place isn’t a simple matter of dropping them off.

McKniff said the agency was in the process Wednesday of getting back in contact with flood survivors likely to need housing. From there, a house site outside a flood zone has to be located where there’s sewer or septic connections, electrical service and drinking water.

The goal is to give people a place to stay while they rebuild, so the ideal location would be on their property.

Otherwise, a site has to be found with those services — and there aren’t a lot of empty places sitting around with sewer and water hookups.

Schoharie County Planning Director Alicia Terry said it’s her understanding the FEMA homes could be hooked up to sewer and well water services on flood-damaged properties, so long as those services weren’t damaged.

Terry said local code enforcement officers met with state and FEMA representatives Wednesday morning to discuss the “menu of issues” surrounding the temporary housing units.

“The municipalities are committed to working with the homeowners to get these things placed and placed appropriately and safely,” Terry said.

She said FEMA will be working with individuals on a case-by-case basis, going through criteria such as the dollar value of damage to their homes and considering sites for the homes.

It’s possible the units would be brought to a site owned by a family member or friend who would agree to have it there until the flood victim’s house was repaired. It’s also possible the manufactured homes would have to be located in some type of park, but no such site has been identified at this point.

Terry said the FEMA homes ideally would be placed on the flood survivor’s property, making it easier for them to work on their homes. But these housing units are not going to be the answer for every individual affected by the flooding, she said.

“That’s part of why we’re trying to explore some other options,” Terry said.

One of those options is making use of the Summit Shock facility that housed 134 inmates and 102 employees before it was shut down in early August.

Terry said officials were meeting Wednesday at the facility to work out the bureaucratic mechanics of turning it into temporary housing.

“The state has been an absolutely willing partner to step this up. Our goal is to make sure that everybody is safe so we need to make sure if people do move in there it is going to be safe housing and safe shelter for them,” Terry said.

State Department of Correctional Services spokesman Peter Cutler said officials from the department were at the site Wednesday to review how much space would be needed and other details.

There are 37 buildings on the 15-acre site, including sheds and other outbuildings.

The inmates who stayed there did so in a dormitory fashion, with multiple people in the same, large room.

That could be modified by putting up barriers depending on the situation of each family.

Once details are reviewed, Cutler said it’s likely the governments will make it happen.

“The Department of Correctional services and the state will work out a way to expeditiously get people in there,” Cutler said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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