Coming Back

FORT PLAIN – The sound of heavy machinery filled the air last week near Reid and Abbott streets.

Crews contracted by New York state were repairing a creek that flooded in June and caused devastation in parts of the village.

On June 28, floodwaters rose on the Otsquago Creek by several feet, breaking the banks and pouring into homes on Reid and Abbott streets.

One woman, Ethel Healey, 87, died in the flooding after her Abbott Street home was swept away by the floodwaters.

Montgomery County was declared a disaster area by Gov. Andrew Cuomo after the flooding.

Recovery has been ongoing since the flooding, and gradually, homes are being repaired and businesses are reopening.

For example, the Fort Plain Save A Lot store and the Nice N Easy store, both of which were damaged heavily in the flooding, reopened last month.

Progress throughout the village has been steady.

Village Mayor Guy Barton said much work has yet to be done, however.

Barton said crews are repairing sewer lines and roads, in addition to fixing the creek bed in an effort to prevent future flooding.

“I am looking at it from the standpoint they have made the banks much harder to flood,” Barton said.

Village Trustee Loring Dutcher said the village has been recovering steadily, thanks to volunteers and the reopening of businesses.

“I think we have made good recovery,” Dutcher said.

Jessica Ford, assistant manager at Save A Lot, said the business has recovered remarkably.

John Hart, owner of the Save-A-Lot, said in July he lost between $700,000 and $800,000 in stock alone.

Inside the store, the shelves were bare after the flood. Many of the shelves were tilted or knocked over. Products were piled in heaps next to water. The floor was coated in mud.

Ford said the business has made a turnaround since then. The store reopened Sept. 18 and has been busy, Ford said.

“We have had a lot of people,” Ford said. “A lot of people have been waiting for the store to come back.”

Ford said employees were involved in the cleanup.

“At some point, everyone here volunteered with the cleanup,” Ford said.

Ford said Hart extended several walls and built a new office during the repairs. She did not provide a cost.

Allan Foote, director of store operations with Blueox, which operates Nice N Easy stores, aid there were 30 to 36 inches of water in the Fort Plain Nice N Easy store during the flooding.

“We were closed for about 80 days,” Foote said.

Foote said he’s optimistic about the village’s recovery.

Ronald Luft, owner of Ron’s Barber Shop on Canal Street, said his business wasn’t harmed by the flood, but he lost his home on Abbott Street.

“It would take a small fortune to fix it,” Luft said. “I got the house, but I could use some funds to fix it.”

Luft said he also has to worry about paying taxes on both his old home and his new house at another site. Legislation has been suggested to help alleviate this, however.

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, whose districts include Montgomery County, proposed legislation they say would help people like Luft.

Titled the Mohawk Valley and Niagara County Assessment Relief Act, the proposal would give municipalities in Montgomery, Oneida, Herkimer, Madison and Niagara counties the option to revise property tax values based on the percentage of property value lost due to flood damage. Property owners then would be able to seek a reassessment, and assessors would be authorized to request assessments of seriously damaged homes based on the property’s after-flood value.

The measure has not been approved by the state Legislature.

The state sent 104 checks totalling $1.4 million to Montgomery County residents in August. The checks were among $13.6 million given to 1,206 homeowners, renters, businesses and farmers affected by the flooding across the Mohawk Valley, Central New York and Niagara County.

Of that money, more than $900,000 was awarded to 67 homeowners, about $60,000 was given to 20 renters and almost $270,000 was given to 11 small-business owners.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would provide no assistance to individual homes.

Volunteers are still working to help those who were affected by the flooding.

Cyndi Tracy, a volunteer with Fulton Montgomery Long-term Recovery, said there has been a shortage of volunteers, and with the winter approaching, more work needs to be done.

“For the immediate recovery, we will be here till the snow flies,” Tracy said.

Tracy said volunteers will work for as long as possible in the winter.

Some homes, according to Tracy, still need to have mud cleaned out.

“Some places still don’t have furnaces,” Tracy said.

Volunteer groups also are looking for skilled workers such as wallboard installers and plumbers.

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