Patchwork of flood relief still has holes for some

Gwen Chamberlain
Robert and Judith Fry look for signs of any items of value in the hole where their Indian Pines home once stood. The couple is living with their daughter in Lyons while they try to decide where their next home will be. They are among the more than 160 families displaced by the mid-May floods in Yates County.

The Indian Pines two-bedroom house Judith and Robert Fry moved into in 2008 was supposed to be their retirement home.

Now, it’s a dreary hole in the ground at 2250 Old Pines Trail.

The Frys were home the night of May 13 when Robert heard what sounded like a water leak in the basement. Judith says when he went to the attached garage to investigate, he stepped into a rushing river of water flowing through their home. Eventually, the flood waters that were washing down off the hillside near Sand Hill Road in Jerusalem damaged the house so severely, the structure had to be torn down — the cinder block foundation had failed in multiple locations, and it was unsafe for them to even recover all of their personal belongings a few days later, after another round of flooding struck on May 16.

The homeless couple is now staying with their daughter in Lyons, and they have lost many of their personal items — tools, precious Christmas decorations, clothing and more. With no secure location to keep some of their items, the Frys collected lawn equipment, outdoor furniture and other items together at the back of their lot. To add to the difficulties, a push lawn mower has disappeared from their collection of salvaged items.

The Frys did receive a $10,000 grant from New York State Homes and Community Renewal through the Yates County Disaster Relief Program, but the grant money will quickly disappear once they pay the bills for demolition and other expenses for the removal of their destroyed home.

“You work all your life to do something and then it’s gone and you have nothing at all,” says Robert, who is retired from logging and sawmill work.

Now, in order to replace their home, the couple, both over 60 years old, will have to find another source of funds. They just found out last week that they don’t qualify for a low interest loan through the Small Business Administration, and they still owe a balance on the land contract for their property. While they have been urged to “walk away” from that deal, they are reluctant to out of concern for their credit history.

The Frys represent just one household among the multitude of damaged or condemned, uninhabitable homes or businesses struck by the mid-May floods. They are all learning the hard lessons that those who suffer a house fire or other loss learn: It can be costly to replace a home.

The Bruce and Marianne Kerrick family, owners of one of five heavily damaged houses on Champlin Avenue find themselves in a similar situation — upside down on a mortgage on a damaged home, says family friend Julie LaBarr.

Over on Clinton Street, Pam Whitford is struggling with similar issues.

The Frys, Kerricks and Whitfords join a group of other homeowners who find themselves without a home, but owing a mortgage balance that is higher than the value of the damaged property. If they use the $10,000 grant funds to make repairs to their property, they could be bound by a requirement to maintain the property as their primary residence for a minimum of three years, and they must obtain flood insurance if the residence is located within the 100-year flood plain.

These homes are among the 166 where help is still needed to recover from the devastation of the flooding. Relief workers at The Living Well have compiled a list of the properties where help is still needed, and will be recruiting professional services and volunteers to help.

Across the street from the Kerrick home, Robert Hawley has begun restoration in his family’s home, stripping walls and insulation down to the studs in the house’s downstairs, discovering artifacts along the way. The new wiring was finished late last week, and Hawley says they are on track to be home by the fall. The Hawleys also received one of the $10,000 grants, and have qualified for an SBA loan. He says they had thought about other living options, but decided the best option for their family was to return to their long-time home on Champlin Avenue.

Hawley has high praise for the efforts of the volunteers at the Living Well, and the assistance his family has received through the grant program.

By the numbers

Officials from the New York State Homes and Community Renewal office in New York say their office received 504 applications for relief from 101 businesses and 403 individuals. As of late last week, more than 170 individuals and businesses had received a check. By July 17, $1,292,634 had been disbursed.

More than 290 applicants have information missing from their applications, which prevents the application from being processed further.

Those applicants have been contacted by letter and phone call to provide the outstanding documents. They are urged to provide the information right away.

The Yates County Disaster Recovery Assistance Program is coordinated through New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES).

Help is available

Help for flood relief for individuals is still available from various agencies and organizations:

• Keuka Housing Council (Help with grants and SBA loans): 315-536-8707. Staff here will help with emailing and faxing documents to state offices for grant applications.

• The Living Well (Help with supplies and volunteers to assist with recovery): 121 East Elm St., Penn Yan, 315-521-6883,

• Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation: Grants for residential homes. Call 585-657-4114 or email On the web:

Help is available