Over $700K going to Gowanda

GOWANDA – The village of Gowanda will finally see more than $700,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding more than four years after a flood wrecked havoc on the small community.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday that New York state will provide $700,954 to Gowanda for reimbursement of costs incurred by the village following the impact of a severe storm and flooding in the summer of 2009. Costs incurred by the village were for labor, equipment and expenses related to damaged mechanical and infrastructure systems in the Village Hall and at the Point Peter Brook Reservoir, as well as related debris removal.

“This funding will go a long way to offset recovery costs incurred by the village of Gowanda when it was struck by severe flooding in August 2009,” said Cuomo. “After several years of advocating for FEMA to release this funding, I am pleased that the village is receiving this long-overdue and deserved support. This will allow Gowanda to move on from the damage that was incurred and continue to reimagine their community for the new reality of extreme weather.”

The village of Gowanda, located along the Cattaraugus Creek split between Cattaraugus and Erie counties, was inundated with nearly four feet of flood waters that swept away cars and mobile homes, damaged home foundations and businesses and caused extensive property and structural damage. Receding waters uncovered scenes of devastation the community was unprepared for. As a result, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Erie Counties were declared as state disaster sites and a Federal disaster declaration was issued on Sept.1, 2009.

New York State Senator Catharine Young said that many residents and businesses had to take on the burdens of repairing following the flood. The FEMA money will help the community “heal these wounds.”

“Our people suffered a great deal of hardship and heartache because of the devastating 2009 flood, and they should not have to shoulder the heavy financial burden of repairing the village’s basic infrastructure. This release of long overdue FEMA dollars not only helps to heal these wounds, but it allows the village to move forward towards a brighter future,” said Young.

“I commend Governor Cuomo and everyone who worked together to cut through bureaucratic red tape so that this progress finally could be made. It has a very positive effect on many lives,” Young said.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has been working on getting FEMA money back to the village. According to Schumer, the $700,000 is long overdue. Commissioner for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Jerome Hauer said the state has worked tirelessly through FEMA applications to ensure Gowanda was reimbursed correctly.

“FEMA and the state were sitting on Gowanda’s money for way too long. It’s about time that they made the village of Gowanda whole for the damage done in this flood. I’ve been advocating for this for months and months and months; I’m glad everyone came together and finally did the right thing,” Schumer said.

Like many other elected officials, Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio also worked to ensure Gowanda receive the necessary reimbursements since 2009. Giglio echoed Schumer’s statement saying he was delighted at the news.

“Since (2009), village officials and officials from many other agencies worked vigorously to replace and repair badly damaged infrastructure. In doing so, the village incurred significant cost, much of which was reimbursable by FEMA. I’m pleased with Thursday’s announcement that the village will be receiving approximately $700,000 in FEMA reimbursement.”

The federal disaster declaration made Public Assistance funding available to the counties of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, and Erie. Individual Assistance was additionally made available to Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties. The Seneca Nation of Indians was also approved for both IA and PA. PA funding – aid that helps rebuild public infrastructure – will top $40 million once completed.

Since serving as mayor in 2012, Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever has worked with area elected officials to make sure all the FEMA reimbursements were paid out. McKeever wanted to personally thank Sen. Schumer, Congressman Tom Reed, Giglio and Young for their efforts.

“I would like to thank Senator Schumer for his leadership over the past years, as he made sure on the federal level that FEMA was held accountable and he never gave up the fight for our community. I thank Governor Cuomo for stepping up to the plate, we are extremely pleased with today’s announcement. I can not forget to mention others in our delegation, Congressman Reed, Senator Young and Assemblyman Giglio for continuing to be our advocates in making sure we did not get lost in the red tape. This is government at its best, working together at every level to achieve a common goal,” said McKeever. “The effort took longer than we had hoped but in the end our fight was won and we could not be more grateful for everyone who helped to make this possible. I am so pleased our village can close this chapter and move forward and finally put the 2009 flood behind us.”

Comments on this article may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com