The Town of Benton has received the first notice of approval from The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for $26,000 in repair funds for spring flood damage. According to Supervisor John Prendergast, this is the first of four applications submitted to FEMA. This was submitted for damage to Stape, Simonsen, and Townline Roads. Highway Superintendent Jeffrey Mann estimates the total of all the applications to be between $75,000 and $80,000.
FEMA reimburses 75 percent of damage costs to declared disaster areas that meet a threshold of damages. New York State Emergency Management usually funds a further 12.5 percent, with the remainder to be borne by local municipalities. But late last Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will pay the full 25 percent FEMA gap for damage caused by the upstate floods in May 2014. Cuomo also announced last week the same state help for municipalities that sustained damage during disasters in 2013.
Benton also approved its budget for 2015 with only a 1.9 percent increase, coming in at $112 under the 2 percent cap. They also approved the fire contracts with Benton, Bellona, West Lake Road, and Penn Yan Fire Depts., with praise from Prendergast at how well costs were being kept down.
In other business at the November meeting:
• Crimes: Sheriff Ron Spike made a presentation to the town board on the recent and remarkable increase in heroin use and related crimes. Two businesses in Benton were targeted by thieves earlier this year, who were then arrested in Penn Yan with the stolen property and a quantity of drugs in their vehicle.
• Rte. 14 Water District: The plan to extend the water main along Rte. 14 southward to the Town of Torrey Line has received approval from 68 percent of the property owners with 62 percent of the contiguous lands. Prendergast states the paperwork should be complete next month and ready for public hearing.
• Solar Tax exemption: The public hearing for Local Law #2 of 2014 has been scheduled for Dec. 10 to decide which tax exemptions for solar power installations Benton will approve. Board members want more information on which taxes will be exempted: property and/or local and state sales taxes. Member Glenn Quackenbush states that he is in favor of exemptions for small business and residential exemptions, but not for a solar energy farm that earns profits from selling power to utility companies.