State will pay 25 percent of the total cost for flood recovery from damage to public assets and non-profits

Yates County municipalities that sustained nearly $10 million in damage to roads and other public infrastructure in the May floods learned Nov. 13 that New York state will provide 25 percent of the funding needed to make repairs.

Combined with the 75 percent of the costs that has already been promised by federal officials, local governments — Yates County, eight of the nine local towns, and the village of Penn Yan and some non-profit organizations — will be relieved of most of the burden of recovery costs.

“We are all very very happy about this,” said Mayor Leigh MacKerchar Friday morning, after receiving word from state officials Thursday afternoon. “It doesn’t make this (recovery) any easier, but it will help, especially as we work on next year’s budget.”

“We are really really pleased with this. The state is stepping up to the plate. This is what was needed,” said Tim Dennis, chairman of the Yates County Legislature.

“Sometimes we are surprised by the state doing something that is the right thing,” adds Legislator Daniel Banach, chairman of the county’s Public Works Committee, who adds, “Too many times they are adding to the load, rather making it easier on the county taxpayers. It certainly is good news.”

In October, Yates County legislators unanimously approved a resolution seeking 12.5 percent in state disaster aid. “We did send that resolution out to other counties and several of them followed up on it,” said Dennis, who also credits State Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano for their assistance in securing the state aid.

Within days, the Penn Yan Village Board authorized similar action, seeking 25 percent reimbursement from the state.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the state assistance for storm recovery efforts to communities in 11 counties, including Yates, that were impacted by the Western New York and Finger Lakes flooding of May 2014. The state will relieve local governments of their entire required share of FEMA Public Assistance Program costs to minimize the financial impact on local taxpayers.

“Local governments throughout these regions were left with significant recovery costs in the aftermath of extreme weather, but today the state is stepping forward to help them build back better than before,” Cuomo said. “By alleviating the financial burden imposed by Mother Nature, we’re clearing the way for local governments to focus on improving storm resiliency with the next storm in mind. That will mean safer communities in the future, and I am proud that the state is helping to make that happen.”

According to Dave Miles, State Disaster Assistance Representative in Yates County, damage in Yates County totalled more than $9.6 million as of Nov. 17. The figure includes damage to county, village and town assets as well as non-profit organizations like The Arc. The final cost is likely to increase as more information comes in from the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center.

“We’re thrilled to see that our local communities will get the fair funding and resources they need to rebuild in the wake of devastating floods,” said U.S. Rep Tom Reed of Corning. “Getting impacted areas back up and safely operating again has always been our top priority. This assistance is great news for Western New York and the Finger Lakes.”

“The announcement of Governor Cuomo’s decision to release State assistance to organizations to recover from the aftermath of the May 2014 storm has brought tremendous relief to all at the ARC of Yates,” said Kate Ring, Executive Director of The Arc of Yates.

“We would also like to thank Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Tom Reed, Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano for their efforts on our behalf. They each played a critical role in helping us to acquire designation as a critical services Agency and worked tirelessly to bring State dollars to aid us in this time of intense hardship.”

While Yates County did not hire a consulting firm to assist with completing the aid applications, some local municipalities, including Penn Yan and Jerusalem did. The cost for the consultant is eligible for federal reimbursement.

Dennis said the single largest project for repairing a county-owned structure is the ongoing work on Italy Turnpike Road, where the road was closed after erosion severely damaged the slope and undercut some of the highway after a pipe failed.

Dennis said the project, estimated to cost $600,000 is underway and should be complete this fall, finishing all county restoration.
While cost for the repairs strained the county highway fund’s cash flow, Dennis says the spending will not impact the 2015 budget, since the county had reserves available to cover the costs before reimbursement from federal and state sources.

Cuomo also announced last week assistance to communities impacted by the Upstate flooding of June 26–July 10, 2013 and Winter Storm Nemo of February 2013.

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jerome Hauer said, “The Federal Public Assistance program is essential for municipalities to get back on their feet after a declared disaster. By providing the non-federal cost share, these communities will be better able to continue to provide daily services as they repair their damaged infrastructure.”

The FEMA Public Assistance Program provides reimbursement for local government activities such as debris removal, emergency protective measures, repair and rebuilding of publically-owned infrastructure that was damaged including roads, schools, bridges, parks, hospitals, police stations, fire houses, water and waste water treatment facilities and other public facilities.

In addition to Yates County, the following counties are eligible for State assistance: Allegany, Cattaraugus , Chautauqua, Delaware, Herkimer, Lewis, Livingston, Ontario, Otsego and Steuben.

This assistance does not help private property owners with recovering from the damage to their homes and/or businesses. Other programs and fund-raising efforts have been used to fill that need as possible.

The FEMA funding is administered by the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.