Roughly two dozen county employees displaced by Tropical Storm Irene will be heading back to work in Schoharie after nearly two years in other quarters.
Vacated after it took on several feet of floodwater in late August 2011, the Schoharie County Office Complex is being filled with furniture, cabinets and people following about $5 million in repairs paid for by the state and federal governments.
“This is a real milestone,” said Bill Cherry, county treasurer and flood recovery coordinator.
Cherry said the next few days will be marked by “organized chaos” at the Main Street facility as computers and other office gear is situated and made ready to welcome the public again.
Following repairs that began right after Tropical Storm Irene, the county’s Social Services Department and roughly 80 employees moved back into the second floor of the facility in November 2011. But the first floor and basement, where the boiler and other equipment were situated, required extensive work, leaving both as a construction scene for a year.
The Schoharie County Clerk will be the first office to return, moving back in today, followed by the county Treasurer’s Office on Friday. The Real Property Tax Office will be moving back June 26, followed by the Department of Motor Vehicles on July 1.
County Clerk Indica Jaycox said the move will bring 13 staffers from the clerk’s office and DMV back to Schoharie. Since the flood, the clerk’s records room has been in the Cornell Cooperative Extension building in Cobleskill, while the DMV is operating out of office space at Lancaster Development in Richmondville donated by the company’s owner, Cobleskill Mayor Mark Galasso.
“[Galasso] has been gracious enough for us to have heat and electricity for free and let us use their space for free almost two years,” Jaycox said.
The DMV will be adding a new feature to the office — an information booth staffed by a worker who will make transactions easier for residents. That employee will ensure residents have the right paperwork they need for their business, Jaycox said.
The DMV will be closed June 28 and July 1 for the move. Following the brief closure, Jaycox said the office should be up and running at full capacity July 2.
The records room in the Cornell Cooperative Extension building consisted of plastic tables and cabinets and little space.
“We made due, and we’ve done fine,” Jaycox said.
She said the return to Schoharie should pump some business into Main Street retailers, with employees and visitors getting lunch and patronizing other businesses.
During a tour Tuesday, Cherry outlined a variety of improvements the county made as part of the project, including roughly $500,000 in work the county Board of Supervisors agreed to fund. The bulk of that money, about $470,000, paid for replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment that wasn’t damaged by the flooding, plus $22,000 to replace the roof on the Health Department’s section of the building, he said.
All heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment is now situated on the roof of the Health Department section and main office building. An emergency generator capable of powering the entire office complex and County Courthouse was built on a platform well above flood level and piped into the building with concrete-lined conduits.
Brand new boilers replaced the 30-year-old units, also moved to upper levels, and all electrical components and other infrastructure have been moved out of the basement. The basement will no longer be used for storage and won’t be occupied except on a temporary basis, such as for meetings in a new meeting room built there.
New elevators were installed and, unlike the flooded units that automatically traveled to the basement during a power outage, the new ones will travel to the third floor, well above potential floodwater.
Variable air volume units were installed throughout the building, providing energy-efficient heating and cooling, all of which is tied into a computer monitoring system.
Lighting throughout the facility is now automatic, another energy-saving feature, and ceilings throughout the building were replaced.
Still to be built is a flood protection system, which will include moving gates that will rise if floodwater comes back to the village, protecting the facility. Some hurricane-resistant and waterproof windows remain on back order and will be installed once they arrive.
Jaycox is asking people with non-urgent business for her office to wait until Thursday, when the office will be fully operational.