LAKE PLACID - The commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets was in Essex County Wednesday to discuss ongoing recovery efforts in communities still reeling from damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
Darrel Aubertine, a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Upstate Storm and Recovery Task Force, spoke with elected officials from the towns of Keene, Jay and North Elba, as well as the village of Lake Placid. He said the goal of his visit was to get a sense of how businesses, municipalities and homeowners are doing in the storm's aftermath.
Aubertine also sat down with farmers to talk about what the state can do to help. He said farms in the southern Adirondacks suffered heavy losses just as harvest season was beginning.
Darrel Aubertine, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, met with local leaders Wednesday to discuss how communities are fairing in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Morris)
"A lot of onions, pumpkins and other commodities on some farms have been totally wiped out," Aubertine said. "Are there things we can do at the department to help in the recovery effort there? I think there are. We have moved forward with some funding mechanisms to try and mitigate those losses to the extent we can."
In the North Country, Aubertine said the agriculture department is working with municipalities like the town of Keene to help mitigate damage to streams, brooks and rivers.
Aubertine said his agency's response has varied depending on geographic location, but he said at the end of the day, it's important to assess the state's response and not claim perfection.
"If there have been shortfalls in our response, we want to make sure that we know about that, so that the next time there's an event - there will be, whether it's an ice storm, a snowstorm, a tornado - we want to be better prepared," Aubertine said. "The comments that I've heard back from most municipalities, as well as individuals - the response has been good."
Aubertine said he hasn't heard about any glaring holes in the state's storm response. He said at some point, the governor will sit down with agency commissioners to review how well the state performed overall.
Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas told the Enterprise that he and Aubertine visited Dean Estes' elk farm, which lost almost everything when the AuSable River roared through on Aug. 28.
"With Darrel being the commissioner of agriculture, I just wanted him to see it first hand, to see the issues that Mr. Estes has faced," Douglas said. "He told me to reach out to him, that he will assist us with anything he can with funding options for Mr. Estes and other farmers in Essex County."
Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall also met with Aubertine on Wednesday, and although Randall's community didn't experience the same kind of damage that others did, he said it was still nice to meet one-on-one with a high-ranking state official.
"I'm fascinated by the fact that the administration in Albany is taking the time to reach out and personally follow up on the activities and efforts that are going on," Randall said.
Aubertine's colleague on the recovery task force, Environmental Facilities Corporation President Matt Driscoll, spent the early part of the week making the rounds in the Hudson Valley and in Schoharie County.