Gowanda waits to make decision on consulting firm

GOWANDA – The Gowanda Village Board is still up in the air on contracting with a Federal Emergency Management Agency consulting firm. The Gowanda Village Board held a special meeting recently where the board still has not made a decision about contracting with Simmons Recovery Consulting.

Representatives from the consulting firm met with the village board last week and explained the services available. The consulting firm ensures all the paperwork required by FEMA is complete and is submitted according to the appropriate deadlines. Since the damage from the May flood is not as extensive as the 2009 flood, Disaster Coordinator Nick Crassi believes the paperwork is manageable by the village staff.

“The amount of projects we have to do is very small compared to ’09. When you realistically look at it, we just got the reservoir, and the reimbursement and organization of all the bills that came up during the flood. … I just don’t understand why we have to get in depth with Simmons … where we don’t know where the end of it is and spend that type of money,” Crassi said.

Crassi said he had “mixed reviews” because he would like to not deal with the paperwork, but the amount of money required to contract with Simmons is unknown. Village Engineer Mark Burr said regardless of the village’s decision, the objective should be maximizing reimbursements while minimizing the impact on the village.

Trustee Pete Sisti agreed that the village is in the dark when it comes to a total amount. The board was not given any estimation from Simmons as to how much the consulting firm would ultimately cost. Treasurer Cindy Schilling gave the analogy of signing over a blank check. She was not against Simmons, but uncomfortable with the unknown cost.

“You can’t tell how much time it’s going to take based on the dollar amount. Basically, you’re in the dark,” Sisti said.

Mayor Heather McKeever was in favor of hiring Simmons since their services can be reimbursed by FEMA. McKeever came up with the $5,000 bill as an example based on projected reimbursement rates; the village would be paying about $0.26 per every $1 billed. The village is still paying on the 2009 flood and to ensure the village will receive the most reimbursed back, McKeever believes the village should go with Simmons.

“Say it costs $25,000 and at the end of the day we end up paying them – after all the reimbursements – $5,000. That to me is absolutely worth it,” McKeever said.

The village could take out a revenue anticipation note to cover the costs of the consulting firm, but Schilling said it is expensive to borrow money. McKeever questioned if the village could afford to not contract with the company. She said with an approximate $1 million project at the reservoir, if any paperwork is incorrect or incomplete, the village would not receive a full reimbursement.

The village will meet again Tuesday and possibly make a decision regarding the consulting firm.

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