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Local News

November 16, 2012

Lawyer rebuilding after flood ravaged house


Ground was broken on a new office this week.

It will be built on the same spot where the yellow and white Victorian had been swooshed off its spot.

"The community gave me a strong indication that they were very interested in seeing my office and practice return here," said the Prattsville native, who has a home in the hamlet of Johnson Hollow, in Roxbury. "We service the whole mountaintop area here."

The building that will be constructed in Prattsville will have both office space and a residential unit, and Rikard said he hasn't ruled out living there himself.

The new building, by design, will be less prone to flooding, he said. "We have to be eight feet up from the grade to be in compliance with FEMA regulations," he noted.

After the loss of his building in the flood, Rikard said his frustration was greatly compounded by his interactions with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. He said his losses ended up being deemed eligible for only a fraction of FEMA's maximum $30,000 award. The lawyer said agency staffers often acted in what he called "an arbitrary and capricious manner," with responses from one official to another often being contradictory.

He said he was going to speak about his experiences in dealing with FEMA later Wednesday in a talk to members of the New York State Bar Association, at a training forum aimed at raising awareness about the legal needs of those New Yorkers struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"You have to keep pushing and pushing when you deal with FEMA," he said. "They rely on half-information. I tell everybody that you have to make sure you know who you are talking to and make sure you record every conversation."

With federal bureaucrats and independent contractors hired by the agency staying in expensive hotels and charging their meals at restaurants to government expense accounts, Rikard said that he questions whether government resources were put to the best use in the response to Hurricane Sandy.

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