With frustration mounting over progress on post-flood rebuilding, Schoharie County Supervisors last week disbanded a multi-member committee and placed county Treasurer William Cherry in charge of coordinating the effort.
The move came during Friday’s meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors, where Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe Jr. said residents are offering to donate labor to rebuild the county jail if the county pays for materials.
“That shows the people are getting frustrated,” Skowfoe said. “The people are tired of sitting here and seeing no progress. We have to give our people hope, in this village, in this town and in other towns.”
Cherry and Board of Supervisors Clerk Karen Miller coordinated the county’s day-to-day business in the first few weeks following tropical storms Irene and Lee and the county board then created a team to organize recovery.
The team consisted of supervisors, consultants, representatives of the county DPW; its meetings drew 20 people or more.
Board Chairman Harold Vroman on Friday said the team did its job bringing the county to the present and the new decision to disband the team is the next step.
He said many are feeling impatient as the county tries to weave through the federal disaster assistance process. “I get frustrated as much as everybody else,” he said.
The committee is to the point of making fewer decisions, which Cherry can bring to the Board of Supervisors’ committees. “We’re right at the point where everything is getting ready to fall into place,” Vroman said.
Cherry said he sees the move as bringing the county government back into a process it’s used to, and said the board will ultimately make any decisions.
He said he intends to focus on getting a jail up and running.
The county jail off Depot Lane was flooded after waters from the Schoharie Creek, swollen from the rains after Irene, inundated the building. Repairs have been estimated at between $5 million and $13 million.
In the meantime, the county is paying $70,000 a month to house its prisoners in Albany County, while losing another $70,000 monthly in revenue it used to earn from taking in inmates from other counties, Cherry said.
The county can either fix up the jail or build a new one, decisions that hinge on what the federal and state governments will help pay for, he said.
“It’s been seven months and we don’t have an answer to that. My job right now is to, one-on-one, get to the bottom of what can we do, how quickly can we do it,” Cherry said.
He said it’s difficult for a team of 20 and as many as 30 people to agree on a specific direction and the team should be commended for its dedication over the past six months. “They’ve put in a lot of time to try to coordinate the recovery efforts. Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks.”