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Franklin Co. emergency services still waiting to hear on funding

May 20, 2011
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

MALONE - Franklin County officials are getting anxious to hear about state and federal assistance to help pay for flood relief and repairs.

Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost gave legislators an update Thursday on the tallies of costs and hours volunteered, but he said his main concern right now is finding out whether the county and people and businesses with flood damage will be able to get monetary assistance.

"The bad part right now is we don't know what to tell the communities. We have had virtually no feedback from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) or from the state," Provost said. "We're getting inundated with calls instead of inundated with water."

Provost said the county is estimating about $11.2 million in flood damage right now.

FEMA has come and inspected the communities to assess the damage for public infrastructure and individual assistance, but the public assessment crew wants to come back and see how the infrastructure fares as the water comes down, Provost said.

"I want to make this very clear: PA (public infrastructure assistance) and IA (individual assistance), we still don't have an understanding whether we're going to get those or not," Provost said.

The state hasn't asked for a federal declaration for a disaster area yet, and the county has heard no word from the federal government on whether a declaration is expected, he said.

"What we're telling them right now is to document everything," Provost said.

He suggested that people who may be eligible for individual assistance should take before and after photos of any sort of flood damage and cleanup, and keep detailed receipts and other paperwork dealing with flooding.

About 70 homes in Tupper Lake saw flood damage, Provost said, 40 of which have first-floor damage. In Saranac Lake, several businesses and apartment buildings were damaged, and there are some county bridges that may be a concern due to flood pressure.


Volunteer hours

Provost estimated that volunteers from across the county put in about 8,738 hours in Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake during the flood.

"These guys do this out of the goodness of their hearts," Provost said. He guessed that both the Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake volunteer fire departments put in at least 2,500 hours per department, but he called that a low estimate for Tupper Lake, at least.

Every fire department in the county sent volunteers to help out, and their hours added up to about 2,160, Provost said.

Additionally, volunteer deputy coordinators, a fire police team, a hazardous materials/decontamination team and a tech rescue team that rescued seven people from their homes in a boat one night in Tupper Lake also spent hundreds of hours volunteering, Provost said.

He also acknowledged all the local, state and county agencies that came together to help during the flooding.



Provost said his department still has some money in its budget for the year, but it has pushed the line on a few expenses, mainly operational ones like moving equipment back and forth from the north end to the south end of the county.

The department's total expenses for flood operations are coming in around $15,800, but that number is still preliminary, Provost said.

The county spent $3,300 on about 10,000 sandbags, though 12,000 were used in Saranac Lake and 6,500 were used in Tupper Lake.

Provost's team spent about $8,500 using the county's reverse 911 system, which makes it possible for dispatchers to make phone calls to people in a certain region to warn them about things like flooding. He said the biggest operation was 5,600 calls to Tupper Lakers in about two-and-a-half hours.

"We got a lot of positive feedback on that," Provost said.

Emergency personnel also spent about $1,200 dispatching for the Tupper Lake Police Department for about seven days, $300 on overtime for dispatching, and $2,500 on gas and fuel. Provost said he's still waiting to find out what the cell phone charges will be.

"I know they're going to be bad, but we haven't got the bills yet," Provost said.

Provost worked about 158 hours between April 27 and May 11, and his deputy director, John Bashaw, worked 138 hours in less than two weeks.

Provost said that, overall, he's happy with the operations.

"No doubt the biggest mission I've ever been on," Provost said. "Very satisfied with the way things went."



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