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The Times
  • Legislators praise flood response, call for patience

  • Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono praised the response of emergency responders and called for patience on the part of residents in the wake of the severe flooding that has caused major damage to parts of Herkimer County.

    Bono made his remarks during Wednesday’s quarterly meeting of the Herkimer County Legislature.

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  • Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono praised the response of emergency responders and called for patience on the part of residents in the wake of the severe flooding that has caused major damage to parts of Herkimer County.
    Bono made his remarks during Wednesday’s quarterly meeting of the Herkimer County Legislature.
    “A lot of people have been working a lot of overtime and have been going above and beyond the call of duty,” said Bono. “Bob Vandawalker (911 coordinator) is wearing about 15 hats and is working on very little sleep.”
    He said road and utility crews are out working and the New York State Office of Emergency Management has come and is helping to bring in the necessary resources to help. He also praised police, firefighters and department of public works crews as well as highway officials and the team at the 911 center.
    “They’re there come hell or high water,” he said of the dispatchers, “and we had both. During the flooding they were getting about 15 to 20 calls per minute.”
    Legislator Robert Schrader praised the volunteer firefighters who have responded, pointing out they receive no pay for these duties and some have problems at their own houses, but they still come out to assist.
    As for the recovery, “It’s going to be awhile,” said Bono.
    He added he was impressed by the progress the village of Herkimer has made in removing large debris.
    He said he and County Administrator James Wallace delivered water to Van Hornesville at one point. “Van Hornesville is crushed,” he said and estimated the damage to public structures is in the range of tens of millions of dollars. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
    Bono said he would extend the emergency declaration for the county another five days, but said, “It’s going to take all of 30 days to do this.”
    Seeking federal aid
    The county is seeking federal assistance and Bono hopes to include the June 23 storm that caused heavy damage in the town of Fairfield as well as the last week’s storm.
    Federal Emergency Management Agency teams are currently assessing the damage to see if the area qualifies for federal aid, according to Bono. He said one team is looking at the impact on homes and another is looking at utilities and public structures. These are handled separately, said Bono. One could be approved and word on the other might come for days, months or longer, he said.
    If and when the area is deemed eligible for federal aid, the request would go to President Barack Obama for approval.
    Households could receive up to $30,000 to replace essential items such as furnaces and water heaters, he said. Grants and low interest loans would be available for businesses.
    Page 2 of 3 - Bono said he told Gov. Andrew Cuomo local communities’ frustrations that state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations have kept them from undertaking work on local creeks that could have lessened the impact of the flooding. While some $5 million has been spent on studies, Bono said, not one dollar has been spent turning over any earth.
    “I told him it’s not about the fish,” said Bono. “I told him to forget the fish; the water was flowing so fast they’re in Albany by now. We can restock the fish.” He added some local mayors and town supervisors are ready to go ahead with work on the streams and go to jail if necessary.
    The governor contacted DEC, said Bono, and DEC issued an emergency permit for villages and towns to go into the creeks and do what needs to be done.
    New website
    During the meeting, the Legislature approved retaining the Paige Group to assist with communications. Bono said he and Wallace were advised communications with the public would be key. The Paige Group is working to send out information and set up a web page.
    A new website, www.HerkimerFlood.org, has been launched to help with coordination and distribution of information.
    “With an influx of services thankfully provided by our state partners, we want to make sure that residents of Herkimer County are getting up-to-date, accurate information to help during this difficult time,” Bono said in a prepared statement. “We advise anyone in the affected areas to routinely check the website for updates from your local officials.
    Information available on the site includes boil water advisories and mental and physical health resources, power information, supply distribution, recommended actions for residents, municipality announcements and state resources.
    “With a lot of information floating around, our goal is to provide a consolidated, one-stop shot for residents, first responders and media,” said Vandawalker in a news release. “As we start turning out communities around and recovering from the severe weather, we want people to know where they can get help.”
    In addition to the website, residents can visit the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HerkimerFlood.
    Highway damage
    Legislator Bruce Weakley, who chairs the county highway committee, reported 40 county highways were damaged in the flooding and nine of them are at least partially closed. “It will cost about $1 million, not to repair them, but just to get them passable again,” he said.
    Legislator Dennis Korce warned road maintenance work that was included in this year’s county highway budget will not get done this year as planned. Even if FEMA approves maximum funding for repairs to flood-damaged roads, highway crews will be behind. Road work can’t be done when conditions are wet, he said, and that means some needed repairs will be delayed. “This is a triple whammy to the county highway system,” he said. “We’re asking the public to be patient.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Legislator Raymond Smith praised Bono’s efforts, noting it was the second time in three months that he has had to handle a major incident. “You’ve taken the chairmanship to new heights,” he said.

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