Fort Plain waits for word on disaster aid

FORT PLAIN – Residents and political representatives of the village are hoping for a federal disaster declaration that would provide further aid to the area, which was devastated by June 28 flooding.

However, some officials are concerned the chances for the federal disaster declaration may not be good.

Jim Plastiras, spokesman for state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, who represents Montgomery County, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not optimistic about Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Plastiras said if the area receives no disaster declaration or federal aid, Cuomo could call upon the state Legislature to help people affected by the flooding.

Plastiras said Cuomo is determined to see the victims receive help.

The flooding severely damaged businesses and homes in the village. An elderly woman was killed in the flooding when floodwaters washed away her home while she was in it.

Plastiras said Tkaczyk proposed the Flood Assessment Relief Act of 2013, which would allow businesses and homeowners in Montgomery County who have been hit by flooding to have their property taxes reassessed and lowered to reflect the flood-damaged status of their properties.

“Under the current law, property owners would still have to pay taxes based on the pre-flood condition and value of their property, which is simply not fair. My legislation would lower their tax bill to compensate for the decreased value of their property,” Tkaczyk said in a news release.

The measure would hold school districts harmless for the loss of STAR, or School Tax Relief, reimbursement by the state as a result of lowered assessments. The news release said Tkaczyk also wants the state to take further action to

reimburse local governments for lost tax revenue.

The office of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, R-N.Y., says FEMA, the New York State Office of Emergency Management and county teams are still doing damage assessment throughout the state, and FEMA will make decisions as soon as they are completed.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Coordinator Adam Schwabrow said he was told it could take up to two weeks for the assessment to be completed.

Schwabrow said the county desperately needs the aid, given the amount of damage and the cost of the cleanup thus far.

“Some of these people’s houses are just gone,” Schwabrow said.

He said he has not been told if the area will receive aid.

“I haven’t heard what our chances are, no,” Schwabrow said.

He said he knows crews are working on estimating the damage cost.

Schwabrow said the cleanup is going well, but it is expensive.

Crews finished curbside pickup Wednesday. Village residents can call the village office in Fort Plain to ask for a pickup if needed. Residents of Minden, however, would need to handle it themselves.

Schwabrow said the cleanup has cost $120,000 landfill fees alone, as well as costs in overtime, gas and other expenses.

To help prevent future flooding, Schumer has asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to support President Barack Obama’s request for a $7.3 million increase to the National Streamgage Information Program.

Schumer called for the full funding of New York’s existing 200-plus stream and river gauges, and he urged for more gauges to be installed upstate.

“Stream gauges are the first line of defense in river flooding, and in these cases, a stitch in time saves nine,” Schumer said in a news release.

In the news release, Schumer said the program, run by the U.S. Geological Survey, is “chronically underfunded,” leaving many of these life-saving flood-detection devices at risk of being shut off each year.

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at [email protected].

By -