Options eyed in Fort Plain: Businesses fear for survival


Recorder News Staff

FORT PLAIN -- Business owners in this flood-stricken village fear they won't be able to survive without federal help in the wake of last month's flooding.

On Friday, they looked elsewhere for help.

Kenneth Adams, CEO and president of Empire State Development, a state agency that fills in when FEMA doesn't come through, met with a group of 15 business owners from Fort Plain at the Village Hall on Friday afternoon.

"A lot of these business owners really need to get back on their feet as soon as possible," Adams said. "So they want help from government. The governor has reached out to the federal government for the FEMA aid ... They want to get their customers back."

Representatives from The Table, Ragtime, a local bed and breakfast and a thrift shop explained their situations to Adams and he offered solutions in the form of specific loan suggestions and contacts he had with other companies that may be able to help.

Unlike previously reported by several sources, 87 businesses have not stated they won't reopen. That number, which is actually 77, is the number of businesses in the affected flood area. Of those, 50 have reported damage and only "one or two" have confirmed they won't reopen, said Marianne McFee, a Fort Plain trustee who is going door-to-door to compile an accurate list.

Adams said that while the number had seemed high to him, it is good for him and his agency to have a sense of the amount of devastation in Fort Plain, which is why he stopped into the village on an impromptu tour.

"We want to be ahead of the curve," Adams said. "The governor wanted us here. We want to be prepared. So after there's a decision about aid for this community, once the governor makes a decision about what programs we can put in place, we've done our homework."

While in the village, Adams and his associates collected names and contact information for the local businesses that attended the meeting.

He wasn't able to put a time frame on it, but said his agency's help would be much quicker than receiving reimbursement from FEMA. Compared to the years it could take through the federal government, Adams said it would be a "matter of months."

"What kind of hope [do] we have?" Tay Milks, part owner of Ragtime, asked Adams behind tears. "Do we have to shut these doors and not come back?"

One business owner who attended the meeting said he didn't expect to get any assistance. Riling up the crowd, he demanded Adams be honest with the other business owners and not get their hopes up.

"The worst thing you can do is put a carrot in front of somebody like a horse and tease them," the business owner said. "Just tell them how long it's going to be ... Don't do that to people, because they all think they're going to get something and then you're not going to give it to them."

During the meeting, Mayor Guy Barton tried to guarantee ESD's commitment to the village.

"Would you consider opening an office in Fort Plain?" Adams asked. "I'll find a place for you ... even with air conditioning."

Adams and the manager of the Mohawk Valley office said they would talk about it.

Alongside businesses that are still in the midst of cleaning up shop, homeowners are still sitting in musty homes littered with debris.

By noon on Friday, only two people signed into the volunteer headquarters at the Reformed Church of Fort Plain to offer their services.

"We need volunteers more than ever," Nancy Ryan, pastor of the church, said.

Ryan said people may have gotten the wrong idea and they may think efforts are no longer needed, but it's far from the truth.

"We're getting calls from Mohawk that people are just getting in to help clean-up," Ryan said. "Van Hornesville has had no one there to help."

Volunteers headquarters has moved from the church to Haslett Park in Fort Plain and Ryan said she still encourages people to stop by and volunteer their services.