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Essex County commits $2.5M to flood repairs

May 3, 2011
By NATHAN BROWN - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County suffered at least $2.25 million in damage to county-owned infrastructure alone as a result of last week's flooding.

The county Board of Supervisors voted Monday to take up to $2.5 million out of the county's $16.2 million fund balance to start repairs. They hope this money will be replaced by state and federal disaster aid. If it isn't, the county will likely have to take out a long-term bond to fund the repairs, said county Manager Dan Palmer.

The most expensive piece of county-owned infrastructure to be damaged is the Titus Road Bridge in Moriah, which collapsed and will be replaced at a $500,000 cost, according to estimates from the county Department of Public Works. Witherbee Road in Moriah will have to be completely rebuilt, at a cost of $300,000, and Stickney Bridge Road in Jay will need $200,000 of work due to a major bank slide. River Road in the town of North Elba and Hurricane Road in Keene will each need $75,000 worth of work.

The area was pummeled by heavy rain on Tuesday and flooding over the couple days after that. The AuSable and Saranac rivers and Lake Champlain spilled over their banks, closing more than 70 roads and causing an estimated $10 to $12 million in damage throughout Essex County.

An additional 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt., with the heaviest rain in the northern Adirondacks. This could lead to more problems.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Moriah, the most-affected town, on Friday and declared the county a state disaster area. For New York to be declared a federal disaster area, qualifying it for federal assistance, there needs to be $25 million in damage to public infrastrucutre statewide: roads, water and sewer systems, public parks and beaches.

The millions of dollars in private property damage countywide is not counted toward the $25 million threshold. If there is a federal disaster declaration, homeowners and businesses affected could qualify for loans. Aside from that, "there's not much we can do," said county Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish.

Officials stressed that governments and private property owners should document all damage. Board Chairman Randy Douglas of Jay told supervisors to submit all records of damage to public property to the county Emergency Services office and the DPW.

"It's critical we keep track of every expenditure," said Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, including the wages of highway crews responding to the flooding and making repairs.

There is also state grant funding available to help with water and sewer damage, Palmer said.

Douglas said he talked to U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, three times over the weekend and has been in frequent contact with state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, who visited Moriah Friday with the governor. They both urged local officials to compile records of the dollar value of the damage to help bolster the case for federal help.

"Bill has the president's ear on this already," Douglas said.

Although Essex County was the most impacted, there was also flooding further south in Warren and Saratoga counties. High winds and flooding also caused damage in other parts of the state.

Supervisors thanked the many government agencies that responded to the flood damage.

"It's been an all-out effort by a lot of government agencies, and we really appreciate it," Scozzafava said.



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