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Irene: State to pay local flood costs

Irene: State to pay local flood costs

A crowd of more than 100 people erupted in applause Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the sta
Irene: State to pay local flood costs
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seated, signs paperwork at the Middleburgh firehouse in April approving the state’s funding of the local share of the costs of post-flood rebuilding projects. He’s joined by, from left, Middleburgh town Supervisor James S. B

A crowd of more than 100 people erupted in applause Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will pay the local government share of post-flood rebuilding costs.

Cuomo said the state will make $61 million available to cover disaster repair costs not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, news that left many officials in the hard-hit Schoharie Valley sighing in relief.

FEMA is paying 75 percent of eligible costs to repair many roads, bridges and public facilities damaged by flooding that resulted from tropical storms Irene and Lee. Typically, the state and local governments split the remaining cost.

At a glance

A look at countywide post-flood rebuilding costs and the estimated local share not covered by FEMA:

Albany County, $15 million, $1.89 million

Montgomery County, $7.9 million, $987,809

Schenectady County, $14.9 million, $1.87 million

Schoharie County, $102.5 million, $12.82 million

“It doesn’t sound like much, but 12.5 percent of $800 million is a lot of money,” Cuomo said before a crowd gathered at the Middleburgh firehouse.

Cuomo visited the Schoharie Valley following a small earthquake that shook the area just days prior to Tropical Storm Irene’s arrival. He then viewed the area via helicopter as the floodwaters receded.

Later, Cuomo joined in the Labor for your Neighbor campaign that drew hundreds to the flood zone to help muck out basements. He said the difficult days that followed the flood revealed a strong community that helps define the Empire State.

“We saw a spirit of community that was inspiring … everywhere,” Cuomo said.

Counties, towns and villages were facing financial difficulty before the disaster, Cuomo said, and local officials made it clear they didn’t want to pass even more taxes onto residents.

Despite the toil that continues, Cuomo said he believes devastated regions are coming back stronger.

“I am so proud to be the governor of this state, to be a colleague of those in this room,” he said.

Cuomo said it’s also clear the work to rebuild is not finished.

“You can still see signs of the scars from the damage that was suffered,” he said.

Post-flood water and sewer system repair costs have reached $1.9 million so far in the village of Schoharie, Mayor John Borst said, so the state taking over the local share is “huge.”

“It’s a big help. … We’re so deep in the hole,” Borst said.

Blenheim town Supervisor Robert Mann Jr. said the announcement will mean roughly $170,000 for the town, money that won’t have to be borrowed.

“I never expected the governor would be able to do this for us. It’s terrific news,” Mann said.

The town of Esperance spent about $1 million putting roads back together and faces another $120,000 to get its fishing access site back in shape, town Supervisor Earl Van Wormer III said. The town has an annual budget of less than $500,000.

“It’s the best news yet,” Schoharie town Supervisor Eugene Milone said of Cuomo’s announcement. Milone said he’s expecting the town’s costs for flood repairs to exceed $300,000.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, said the state’s funding doesn’t just represent a benefit for counties, villages and towns; it’s also a bonus for local taxpayers who would have been footing the bill.

“It’s a massive lift for these small towns and villages,” Lopez said.

Middleburgh Mayor Matthew Avitabile said the village alongside the Schoharie Creek lost roughly five percent of its taxable value to the flooding, so the state’s move is significant.

“This is a big piece of the puzzle,” Avitabile said.

Middleburgh town Supervisor James Buzon said the news will also mean money for all the contractors that have waited patiently to be paid for the work they’ve done to help rebuild. The town might also be able to stop borrowing money, he said.

“We’ve been borrowing from here, there and all over,” Buzon said.

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