Gowanda has interest to pay regardless of FEMA?reimbursement

GOWANDA – While it was announced in January the village of Gowanda would finally receive more than $700,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, the village will still have to pay for the 2009 flood.

Governor Andrew Cuo-mo announced in January that $700,954 would be reimbursed for the flood that wreaked havoc on the village, which sits on the border of Cattaraugus and Erie counties. The village saw nearly four feet of flood water that caused damage to residential and business properties, swept away cars and mobile homes and left a thick layer of muck.

Following the one-year anniversary of the flood, Michael Hutchinson, former village public works superintendent, said the village did not wait and started recovery work right away. He said the village spent $1.5 million on recovery by the time FEMA had de-clared the event a disaster.

Village Treasurer Cindy Schilling said, following the flood, the village had to borrow $3.85 million in bond and revenue anticipation notes to finance recovery efforts.

“This is short-term borrowing that has been partially paid down over the years using what FEMA funds and insurance proceeds that have become available,” Schilling said. “To date, this financing has cost the village taxpayers approximately $185,000 in interest expense while we have been waiting for the balance of our FEMA funds before going to long-term financing.

‘With the federal government covering 75 percent and the state covering 12.5 percent, we are left with a local share which totals 12.5 percent,” she added.

FEMA approved 21 projects to be funded following the flood, including damage to the village’s reservoir and roads. While Mayor Heather McKeever has no word of when the funds will be in the village’s hands, the money will be used to pay down the BAN. One of the village’s BANs had to be rolled over at the end of 2012, costing the village an additional $25,000.

“The final payment for FEMA funding will allow the village to pay down the BAN and finally secure long-term financing for what is left unpaid. Clearly, the less we need to finance, the better for the residents of Gowanda by minimizing principal and interest payments on an annual basis,” Schilling said.

McKeever is thrilled the money has been allocated so the village “… can close this chapter and move forward and finally put the 2009 flood behind us.”

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