Rainy day refunded

Those affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding in late June will see relief in the future thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Chautauqua County will be eligible for FEMA money, as announced by Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand Monday in a news release. FEMA has added Chautauqua, Clinton, Broome and Essex counties to the disaster declaration, making these counties eligible for public assistance.

“From the North Country to the Southern Tier, no one can question the severity of this massive storm or the suffering these communities have endured,” Gillibrand said in the release. “We need any available federal assistance to continue the hard work of cleaning up and rebuilding. These federal funds will go a long way to help our communities stand strong.”

Being added to the list of those counties to receive public assistance is welcome news, County Executive Greg Edwards said. Through the public assistance program, FEMA provides reimbursement funding for projects relating to debris removal, repairs and replacements for publicly owned facilities or properties.

“The great news is that we were included in the damage across New York state. FEMA did make a finding and there was sufficient damage for them to consider public assistance for municipalities,” Edwards said.

On June 28, heavy rainfall led to flooding that caused significant damage to areas in the county. The most significant damage was to the towns of Pomfret, Portland, Chautauqua, Stockton and the village of Brocton, according to Edwards. Most of the damage was to roads, culverts, guide rails and other infrastructure.

Schumer said the federal assistance is essential to recovery efforts.

“This federal disaster assistance is necessary because it will give reassurance to our communities that the federal government will be there to help as they continue their response efforts and begin to recover from the storm,” Schumer said in the release.

Edwards was there on June 28 to survey the damage along with Julius Leone Jr., director of County Emergency Services, and the rest of his staff. Although there was significant damage, the county had to wait for a minimum dollar amount of damage to be determined. Damage in the municipalities had to meet this dollar amount in order to qualify for the federal funding.

“We could see the damage was significant, but we had to await the determination of State Emergency Management Office and FEMA to determine what the thresholds were going to be for the county collectively to see whether or not we would qualify for the FEMA benefit,” Edwards said.

The threshold was $450,000 for the county and FEMA benefits will cover up to 75 percent of reconstruction costs. Edwards said initially the county did not think they could make the threshold, but thanks to Leone and the office of Emergency Services working with the municipalities, the threshold was met.

“They went back out, they reviewed it and talked to more people. They discovered there was a significant amount of damage to the Brocton Reservoir that would qualify as part of this. That pushed us beyond the $450,000 threshold to somewhere in the range of $600,000,” Edwards said.

Edwards also said FEMA opened up the time frame during the heavy rainfall from June 26 to July 4, not just limiting the damage to the 28th. Edwards said this time frame is determined on a case by case basis by FEMA.

“That’s helpful because the initial review (was) just on damage on June 28. There could have been damage that was caused late in the night on 27th but didn’t qualify because of the specific time frame. They opened it up primarily because of the continuing damage that the Central part of New York experienced,” Edwards said.

The next step will be a meeting held at the Emergency Services Office located in the Mayville municipal offices on Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon. At this meeting, representatives from FEMA and SEMO will be meeting with representatives from the municipalities to discuss the next step – completing project workshops. Civil engineers will work with municipal leaders to further complete the worksheets to be submitted for reimbursement.

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