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FEMA picky on spring flood repairs in H’town

Town board plans to appeal funding limitations

December 23, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it will only cover a portion of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure damage the town of Harrietstown sustained from this spring's floods.

Supervisor Larry Miller said Thursday that FEMA is only willing to give the town $4,393 for work on a culvert on Coreys Road that was damaged when the Raquette River reached record-high levels in late April and early May. North Woods Engineering, which was hired by the town to prepare repair plans for town infrastructure damaged by the flooding, estimated that replacing the culvert would cost $80,000, a figure that included town and county highway crews doing the bulk of the work.

"(FEMA's) solution is that we haul buckets of concrete down inside that culvert and patch it," Miller said.

The town had also submitted $10,000 in expenses for labor costs associated with sandbagging that town employees performed behind the Harrietstown Town Hall when the Saranac River flooded over its banks. FEMA was only willing to reimburse the town $4,864, Miller said.

The biggest expense the town is facing is an estimated $400,000 for replacement of a concrete and stone retaining wall behind the town hall that was undermined by the river. FEMA is only offering to give the town $71,000, Miller said.

Miller said he's asked Joe Garso of North Woods Engineering to appeal each of FEMA's determinations. The supervisor also got the go ahead from the town board Thursday to contact U.S. Rep. Bill Owens "to make him aware that this is totally unrealistic."

"I don't know where FEMA is coming up with these dollars," Miller said.

Asked after the meeting what the town will do if its appeals are rejected, Miller said he believes "it's the board's intention, probably before the building season, to go ahead and start moving forward" with the projects.

That means the town may have to borrow money to make the necessary repairs. Town officials were planning to do that anyway, hoping that FEMA would reimburse the town later for an amount closer to the total cost of the projects.

"We were going to have to bond for it anyway," Miller said. "We know at least we'll get the amounts they say they're going to give us, but it's less than $100,000 for everything."

Miller said the Coreys Road work could take place next year, but he doesn't think the retaining wall project will happen until 2013.

"I'm guessing that by the time we get the APA and Army Corps of Engineers permitting for the retaining wall - I don't think that project will be done in 2012," Miller said.

Even if the town decides to bond for the projects next year, Miller said the town's first bond payment wouldn't be due until 2013.


River Walk relocation

Earlier in the meeting, Councilman Ron Keough said the village has asked the town if it's open to relocating a portion of the River Walk behind the town's new retaining wall. The section of the River Walk that's a wooded boardwalk behind the town hall was heavily damaged in the spring floods.

"It certainly would make sense that it would be better and safer to put that River Walk up inside the wall," Keough said.

Keough said relocating that part of the River Walk would require obtaining some easements, could lead to the loss of a few parking spaces and may mean the town would have to find a new location for its generator, which is located between the back of the town hall and the river.

After a brief discussion, the board approved a motion to work with the village to develop a plan for relocating that section of the River Walk.


Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or



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