Officials still tallying damage

Gwen Chamberlain

Driving through portions of Yates County, one would not guess that a state of emergency continues following the extensive storm damage from mid-May.

A few roads are still closed as crews continue to work on repairs, boaters are advised to continue to look out for floating debris, property owners and their insurance carriers are making decisions about the future of severely damaged properties, and elected officials continue to seek total damage estimates and funds to help pay for repairs.

Bruce Lyon, code enforcement officer for the village of Penn Yan says at least one Clinton Street house will be demolished, and two others may be considered for demolition.

The story in Jerusalem is similar, says John Phillips, code enforcement officer. There, a seasonal cottage will be demolished and the fate of two other residences hangs in the balance.

Jeff Gifford, president of Birkett Mills, says the remainder of the former Owl’s Nest building on Seneca Street in Penn Yan will most likely be torn down. “Our number one priority has been to get the mill back up and fully operational, and as of last Friday, the final pieces of the operation were started. We now have to deal with other issues at the mill caused by the flood and will probably look at the future of the Owl’s Nest after that,” he explains. For more about the Seneca and Basin Streets area of the village, turn to page 5.

Diane Caves of the Yates County Office of Emergency Management says local officials learned Friday morning that Yates County has met the threshold to be eligible for assistance from the Small Business Administration.

SBA officials have staged an office at Keuka Housing Council and began taking applications for low interest business loans Tuesday June 3. The Finger Lakes Economic Development Center with additional support from Lyons National Bank is also offering zero interest loans from a $400,000 local fund.

Caves says Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) officials visited May 21 to tour the county’s public infrastructure damage, and FEMA officials returned this Monday.

Caves says, “As long as we are receiving state assets, we need to keep the (state of emergency) declaration in effect. We still have NYS DOT crews helping the Town of Jerusalem highway department repair roads to a safe condition.”

Jerusalem, one of the hardest-hit areas, is still under a local state of emergency.

Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike says state officials have been contacted for consultation regarding lake hazards.

Jerusalem Supervisor Patrick Killen says the state of emergency, renewed every five days, allows local authorities to take measures such as restricting travel when there is danger to public health and safety, and it facilitates provisions for sharing services. The declaration was most recently renewed June 3.

So far, Killen says damage estimates to Jerusalem roads and infrastructure are inching toward $2.9 million, “This exceeds our total annual budget for 2014 for all town expenses of $2,339,923. If all we did this year was repairs, we would be half a million dollars in red and not have any other services covered,” he wrote in an email last week.

Unofficially, reports of damage in the village have been estimated at about $2.1 million.

“Anyone who ever remodeled a room or two in their house knows that repair and remodeling estimates are not always equal to actual cost. Many times we underestimate, often from not being fully aware of all the damage until we actually start working on a project,” he continued.

New York State Department of Transportation loaned four crews with men, trucks and equipment from four other DOT regions to help in Jerusalem alone. In addition, the towns of Pulteney, Seneca, Gorham and Potter all sent help in the form of workers and equipment.

“It also allows certain emergency expenditures, like hiring a contractor right now with a specialized piece of equipment that can reach far enough off East Bluff Drive to reinforce eroding banks, and shoulders, before the erosion tears out water and sewer lines, without calling a town meeting, placing an RFP (request for proposal), waiting for and obtaining a sufficient number of bids, then awarding a contract,” Killen explains.

Conditions related to Jerusalem’s state of emergency include boating hazards on Keuka Lake and road closures or restrictions at:

• Belknap Hill between Potts and Italy Friend Road

• Shanty Plains Road between Champlin and Hemlock Roads

• Sid White Road

• Corwin Rd. — local traffic only, single lane

• Portions of East Bluff Drive in three areas, 4000-5000 block, have settled due to erosion of the shoulder and land on the lake side. The settling road and eroded shoulder may damage existing water and sewer lines, making repairs here a priority.

• Other areas where shoulders of roads have been weakened.

On Monday, June 2, Jerusalem Highway, Jerusalem Water and Sewer employees, and contracted help with specialized equipment, (long extended arm excavator) began repairs along East Bluff.

Yates County Highway Superintendent David Hartman does not have final numbers on total damage estimates. At Monday’s County Legislature Public Works Committee meeting, he reported a newly discovered problem on the Italy Turnpike Road, which is likely damage that took time to develop.

He told the legislators that county residents have been helpful, understanding and supportive to the work crews, delivering food and beverages, and offering thanks for their help.

While Steuben and Ontario County crews have been in Yates County helping with recovery, he said he could have had as many as 15 counties here lending a hand. “But at some point, you get to too many to manage,” he said.

Yates County officials also have another issue to think about. Up to an inch of water seeped into the County Office Building in the area where historic documents are stored, and the Public Safety Building basement took in up to 2 inches of flood water.

Organizations that continue to offer assistance to those who sustained losses from storm damage include:

• Keuka Housing Council, 160 Main St., Penn Yan 315-536-8707

• Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, Keuka Business Park, Penn Yan 315-536-7328

• Living Well, 163 Main St., Penn Yan, 315-521-6883

• Bishop Sheen Foundation, www.sheenhousing.org, 585-657-4114

• American Red Cross 315-536-6841

• Salvation Army 315-434-1369