KEENE VALLEY - Paula McDonough remembers seeing her family's business under water, literally. McDonough is the owner of McDonough's Valley Hardware in Keene Valley, a store that was devastated by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28, 2011.
"We had thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damages," McDonough said. "There was over 30 inches in our store."
McDonough said the inventory on the bottom two shelves throughout the store was lost from the water. The damage, she said, was around $50,000 to $60,000 worth of inventory. That's not including the sales that were lost due to the unsafe travel on the torn-up state Route 73, where Irene cut off Keene Valley from the south. The storm's damage and repair costs nearly ruined the business financially, she said.
Jim Sams and other neighbors help clean up the flooded McDonough’s Valley Hardware store on Aug. 29, 2011 — the day after Tropical Storm Irene flooded it — in Keene Valley.
(Photo — Naj Wikoff)
Although the flood waters had receded by the next day, emergency assistance funding is still available to businesses that incurred damage in 2011 from Tropical Storm Irene, Superstorm Sandy or Tropical Storm Lee.
Several business owners met in AuSable Forks Wednesday afternoon with state officials, town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas and town of Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee to discuss aid opportunities through the state's New York Rising Small Business Development Program. The program, originally designed for the victims of Sandy, later expanded to cover hurricanes Irene and Lee. (Irene had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached the North Country). NY Rising has allocated $25 million for planning in the most affected communities. The state has been awarded a total of $8 billion in relief since Superstorm Sandy, funded by Congress when it approved $50 billion in aid from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.
"The meeting was just to give awareness to the businesses that they are out there to give some aid," said Douglas, who is also chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors. "The reason it took so long was it originally only allowed for Sandy victims. After lobbying by us, Senator (Kristin) Gillibrand, Senator (Charles) Schumer, (Rep.) Bill Owens and Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo, it allowed Irene victims to be included in this."
Scott McDonald of Jay is the co-chair of the Jay and Keene NY Rising committee. He was another person who pushed for NY Rising funds to include victims of Irene.
"I just felt bad for businesses and had to reach out," McDonald said. "We kept hearing from businesses that had losses and unmet needs that our program wasn't created to address."
NY Rising offers grants, low-interest loans and mentorship assistance to any business affected by the three storms. Businesses that qualify could be eligible for up to $50,000 in grants and loans that can cover costs of up to $1 million. McDonough was not at the meeting on Wednesday but said she plans to contact the North Country Small Business Development Center to sign up for a chance to receive aid.
"They could either contact New York Rising on the website or contact our office here in Plattsburgh, and we could get them on the right path (to sign up)," said Andy Allison, a certified business advisor with the North Country Small Business Development Center. "The application process is going to require documentation. They won't be able to do it on their own."
The documentation requires that a business prove its damage or loss of business during the period after a storm. There is currently no deadline on submitting applications for these grants and loans, but they are paid out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Jay and Keene have already submitted their emergency plan, designed by locals to reconstruct their communities in ways that will make them more resilient against storms in the future. In April, Jay and Keene were jointly awarded $3 million at a NY Rising conference in Albany for flood mitigation work done to Johns Brook.
McDonald said now that their plan is finished, it is time to get a study done so improvements can be made to protect the communities.
"We will get engineers to help determine what needs to do be done to protect those businesses on Main Street (in AuSable Forks)," McDonald said. "A lot of businesses want something done with the West Branch (of the AuSable River) because that's where a lot of the flooding happens. The state's good at giving money, but now we got to get it going."