Eight years after Irene, final Schoharie County recovery report released

$90 million spent on flood recovery since 2011
The bridge replacing the Old Blenheim Bridge destroyed during Hurricane Irene is shown on Jan. 8.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The bridge replacing the Old Blenheim Bridge destroyed during Hurricane Irene is shown on Jan. 8.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

SCHOHARIE COUNTY — Flood Recovery Coordinator and Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry issued his “final Flood Recovery Report” on Friday, detailing how his county has spent about $90 million for 180 projects since 2011 to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irene.

According to the report, since the date of the flood, August 28, 2011, Schoharie County has undertaken four major flood recovery projects: 

  • The repair and reconstruction of the flood-damaged County Office Building
  • The installation of an underground floodgate system to protect the County Office Building in the event of future flooding events 
  • The replacement of the Blenheim Covered Bridge at an increased elevation to eliminate future damage from high water events, and the largest and most complex of the projects,  
  • The construction of the new Public Safety Facility and County Jail. 

Cherry said the county Department of Public Works has also completed an additional 176 different highway, road, bridge and culvert disaster recovery projects; 79 of which were designated as ‘large’ under FEMA guidelines while the other 97 were classified as small. 

Cherry’s report explained that a flood disaster receiving aid from both the state and federal governments normally has 75 percent of the recovery costs covered by FEMA, with the remaining 25 percent split between state and local governments. Using that ratio, Schoharie County taxpayers would have been forced to cover $11.3 million worth of repairs. However, thanks to “thousands of hours of hard work and dedication by the many agencies, consultants, contractors, professionals, elected officials, and Schoharie County,” its contribution was reduced to $6.3 million, all of which went towards the new Public Safety Facility and County Jail.

Cherry’s report stated Schoharie County’s flood recovery projects have received $62,399,518 from FEMA, $18,691,071 from the New York State Emergency Management Office and $5,097,540 from flood insurance payments. 

Cherry praised the efforts of federal, state and local officials in helping to secure the funding, including: U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; U.S. Representatives Chris Gibson, John Faso, Paul Tonko, and Antonio Delgado; NYS Dept. of Homeland Security, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all county employees and department heads; Ron Simmons and Simmons Recovery Consulting; Doug Vandeusen and Lamont Engineers; Mark Kukuvka and LaBella Associates; Mike Delima and BBL Construction Management; Greenman Pedersen; The West Firm; Kevin Karn; the Village and Town of Cobleskill; the Village and Town of Schoharie; the Blenheim Long-Term Community Recovery Committee; and all of the individual contractors, subcontractors, and consultants who contributed to the recovery. 

“It has been a great honor for me to have served as the Flood Recovery Coordinator for Schoharie County during this very difficult and challenging time,” he said. “When I say that this has been a team effort, please know that I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The past eight years have not been easy – but our resilience, and our fortitude, and our downright stubbornness in refusing to accept defeat – have unified all of us who have labored on these projects into more than just a standard work group.  We became a real team, in every sense of the word.” 

One of the highlights of Cherry’s report was his estimate that the county’s new $44.3 million Public Safety Facility and Jail is set to be completed on time, and nearly $1 million under budget, even with some unanticipated information technology costs.  

“While some components of the project came in costing slightly more than was budgeted, there were other components that cost less than originally estimated,” Cherry wrote in his report. “We also found that the original budget did not include the kinds of IT and communications equipment that the departments and agencies would need to fully function. For example: new larger servers, new telephones, new computers in some cases, and extensive networking and data communications equipment.” 

According to the report, despite the addition of unanticipated IT costs, the new Public Safety Facility and Jail is expected to be completed at a cost of no more than $43,346,167, $978,833 less than the budget approved by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors on May 19, 2017. 

Cherry also recommended the county extend its contract with LaBella Associates, the architectural and design firm, responsible for the jail, for the first six months of 2020 because “a very small number of items involving the new PSF will overlap into the new year.” He said LaBella Associates has agreed to do the work without an increase in its current professional services contract of $3.1 million. 

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