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September 19, 2013

Flood recovery brings Cuomo to Margaretville

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Gov. Andrew Cuomo attended a Wednesday morning meeting with a Margaretville committee working on long-term rebuilding after the 2011 flooding. Members reached for comment welcomed his support. 

The Margaretville New York Rising Community Reconstruction Planning Committee was one of more than 100 similar groups comprised of community leaders, experts and other officials, according to a media release from Cuomo. 

The committees were launched by Cuomo earlier this year and funded by federal recovery dollars to empower communities that suffered significant damage in recent storms. According to the release, the committees, composed of representatives from government, nonprofits and other stakeholders, will “create and implement locally-oriented strategies to rebuild and better prepare for future extreme weather.” Locally, similar committees were also created for Sidney and Prattsville.

Wednesday’s meeting in Margaretville was held at the central school, co-chairwoman Carol O’Bierne said. Cuomo talked about the program and his personal experiences in the village the day it was flooded in 2011, she said. 

“It allowed him to experience the drama, and the devastation that came,” O’Bierne noted. 

Working with state provided planning organizations, and community input, the local committees will seek long-term solutions to specific challenges that each faces so “we are better prepared when we are flooded again,” she said. 

“You don’t want to rebuild the way it was done before.” 

The expectation is that, by the end of October, the committee will identify specific locations where action needs to be taken. The entire project is to be presented in February.

“Margaretville and surrounding areas were hit hard during Hurricane Irene as well as Tropical Storm Lee,” Cuomo said in the release. “Following the storms and severe flooding, the state stepped up to the plate to help families, businesses, and farms recover, and now we need a long-term approach and strategy for making Margaretville stronger and more resilient for future natural disasters. The New York Community Reconstruction planning committee will bring this community together to create a bottom-up, long-term recovery plan that will enable Margaretville to build back better than ever before.”

Funding will come from grant amounts based on FEMA-assessed damage levels as well as applications for new infrastructure and other mitigation, and will be awarded once the community’s plan is complete and submitted to the state for approval. The communities will be eligible to share in more than $500 million of funding made available through the federal supplemental appropriation Cuomo worked with Congress to obtain earlier this year.

The state will also award at least $250 million from its FEMA-funded Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to New York Rising Communities to implement eligible projects contained in their plans. In addition, a $3 million bonus will be awarded for best plans in several categories, including community involvement, use of technology in planning, and best regional collaboration.

The Margaretville committee is eligible for up to $3 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding.

Also on the committee is Margaretville Mayor Diana Cope, who said, “The governor is very interested in the rebuilding, having seen the damage firsthand. We’re so glad he remembered.”

The first meeting was in Albany earlier this summer, she said. Since then there have been a handful of weekly meetings at the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday’s meeting with Cuomo lasted about an hour, Cope said. The group will be doing public outreach at two upcoming events because “it will be a community driven plan. We need to be thinking about protecting our future,” she said.

Dennis Porter, who is chairman of the Sidney New York Rising Community Reconstruction Planning Committee, could not be reached for comment on that group’s activities. Mayor Andrew Matviak, who is a member of the group, said there will be a meeting today at offices in the Sidney Federal Credit Union. 

While the group had an organizational meeting about a month ago, this is the first meeting with the state provided consultant. It is eligible for funding that is similar to Margaretville, he said.