Legislator John Brezinski last month called on Herkimer County to assist homeowners and landlords who were denied flood assistance from the state.
Wednesday evening, several landlords who own rental property in the village of Mohawk asked the Legislature to provide assistance where they say the state fell short.
“It’s like if my house was burning and my neighbor’s house was burning and we both called the fire department, but the fire department only put the fire out at my neighbor’s house because I’m a landlord,” said Thomas Wiers, who owns rental property with his wife, Barbara. “That wouldn’t make sense and this doesn’t make sense either. It’s been three months now and there are still a number of displaced tenants out there.”
“We don’t believe it’s fair,” said Barbara Wiers. “We hope to retire soon, but it will be difficult for us to retire after we had to spend $31,000 from our savings to keep the house we rent out from collapsing. We pay taxes like everyone else, yet we are not receiving the same treatment as everyone else. We don’t know where to turn for answers.”
In July, the state designated $4 million in flood assistance to Herkimer County in the form of grants for residents, business owners and farmers. Through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s program homeowners were eligible for up to $31,900 in assistance, and small business owners and farmers or farm operations were eligible for up to $50,000.
“One concern of mine is the lack of assistance to landlords. They were denied any help and were denied flood assistance from the state because they didn’t reside at the same residence as their renters,” said Brezinski. “They feel ignored and angered because they pay taxes as a small business would and yet are not considered a small business.”
Virginia Jaquish, who owns Creekside Mobile Home Park with her husband, William, said the couple is eligible for a low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration with a 6 percent interest rate, but is not eligible for grant money.
“It is evident that we are a small business to them, yet we do not qualify for grant money from the state as other small businesses do,” she said. “Why should we have to borrow money when our neighbors are receiving grant money for the same damage?”
Jaquish said the seven-unit mobile home park on state Route 168 was a total lost.
“All of our tenants were displaced, so how can we pay back a loan with a 6 percent interest rate when we don’t have any income coming in from the park,” she asked. “If the county can’t assist us, at least they can guide us and provide us with answers, because us landlords are an asset to our communities. We pay taxes, we provide housing for families to live in and we reinvest our money back into the community,” said Patrick Bielanski, who owns one rental property in the village of Mohawk.
Page 2 of 2 - Brezinski, D - Frankfort, last month asked the Legislature to match the $4 million Gov. Cuomo dedicated to the county or provide $2 million to help flood victims.
“Herkimer County should step up to the plate and support our own people who work and live here, pay their taxes and support their community,” he said. “The devastation hurt many families and if the money they received from the state is not enough to help them get back on their feet then we should try to take up some of the slack.”
“You can’t come to a body like this and beg for money,” said Legislator Raymond Smith, R - Dolgeville. “The real way to solve your problem is to pull up your bootstraps, get in the muck and mud and get together, work together and do something for yourself.”
Smith said he had to rebuild his home after flooding in 1984 and 1986, and did so without assistance from the state or other government agencies. “You have to do it for yourself, and that’s what a bunch of us did. We got together and worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to have a dam built to prevent the flooding from happening again,” he said.
“People did stand up for themselves, but for some things throughout history the government has come to help,” said Legislator Gary Hartman, D - Herkimer.
Chairman Vincent Bono said the Legislature plans to send a letter to the state requesting assistance for landlords affected by the floods.
In other business Wednesday evening, the Legislature authorized a contract for a conceptual design for a new county jail with the Goldberg Group of St. Joseph, Mo. Legislator Patrick Russell, R - Old Forge, said the $3,500 cost for the design will only be paid if it is approved by the state Commission of Correction.