Silver Creek awaiting FEMA monies from ‘09

SILVER CREEK – The waters went as fast as they came.

That was the scene five years ago when the village of Silver Creek was one of many communities hit with flooding. The flash floods that took place overnight Aug. 9-10, 2009 took out a trailer park on Central Avenue, damaged village property and even washed away vehicles.

With the five-year anniversary this past weekend, officials in the village of Silver Creek are looking back on that devastating day. The effects of what was called a 100-year flood or once-in-a-lifetime event are still being felt throughout the village.

Mayor Nick Piccolo said the village has been at a “standstill” while waiting for a response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Damaged in the flood, the village’s Department of Public Works building has been moved to a newly purchased building on Routes 5 and 20 in the town of Hanover.

“We’re looking very good. It’s not just an ex-beer building. It looks like something there that the people of the village can be proud of, even though it’s outside the village,” Piccolo said.

The village is also making strides in its water department. An infiltration and inflow project to prevent ground water entering the sewer system and working on a wastewater treatment plant have been conducted. While these two projects are not related to the flood, they were mandated by the state.

Although Piccolo was not mayor in 2009, he was residing in the village. Since the majority of damage happened overnight, he was not home and only saw the damage the following day. Piccolo could not believe the amount of damage the village had received. Piccolo commended the streets, fire and water departments, and the residents for all their work following the flood.

“I was just hoping the residents and everybody would pull together, which they did. They did a great job. … Everybody came together and pitched in and did a great job in the restoration of the village at that time. It looked like a village once again,” Piccolo said.

One of the places that suffered damage in the village was the Silver Creek Fire Department. Current Fire Chief James Tytka Jr. was incident commander in 2009. The department has since replaced or repaired any equipment that was damaged. He explained how the department has taken precautions to protect against future floods.

“We do have a different type of locker set up for all of our personal gear. The lockers actually raise up to the ceiling now, so if for some reason we have a potential flood, we can raise that up. The guys who do store their turnout gear at the fire station and aren’t responding, we can save their gear by raising all the lockers up to the ceiling,” he said. “Unfortunately, the fire hall is not flood proof.”

The night of the flood, Tytka said the “adrenaline” was pumping and he was in “awe” when he saw the damage. Two firefighters were attempting a water rescue at the trailer park when they were almost washed away. A fire truck was almost washed away trying to reach residents at the village’s command center.

“There was a lot of us that didn’t think we were going to get home. It’s unbelievable the power of water and Mother Nature. There were cars being pushed right down the street. (There were) trailers that actually made it out of the trailer park, under the bridge and made it out to the lake. It was unbelievable,” he said.

While waiting for FEMA reimbursements to come, Piccolo took matters into his own hands. In early 2012 while he was only a trustee, Piccolo started sending out letters to political leaders – State Sen. Catharine Young, Sen. Charles Schumer and Congressman Tom Reed – to push for reimbursement. While the village is still awaiting FEMA reimbursements, Piccolo said he is grateful to the offices of Young and Reed for all their work.

“They’re the ones that took the bull by the horns. They more or less instigated FEMA enough so that they would sit down and talk with us so we could start and recoup some of the money that was owed from 2009,” he said.

According to Treasurer Janet St. George, the village received a FEMA payment in January in the amount of $508,855, a partial payment for the DPW building. The building is still not paid in full and the village has spent over $385,000 on the project and FEMA and the State Office of Emergency Management are required to pay 87.5 percent of that project.

Since 2009, there have been heavy rainfalls and minor flooding throughout the village. Tytka explained the fire department is trying to help out residents when weather mishaps occur. He said it is “unfortunate” the village cannot just turn off water when it rains to prevent flooding.

“It’s a small community, everybody knows everybody. We try to help each other out. … We do what we can to help our neighbors and try to get everybody on their feet as quickly as possible,” Tytka said.

Piccolo said the current village board has been working well to put political affiliations aside and make progress throughout the village in the past five years.

“I believe that the current board that we are working with right now, I feel as if we made a lot of progress. We’ve set politics aside and we work together, and we work for the betterment of the people as well as the community as a whole,” he said.

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