By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
Montgomery County officials are working with state legislators to obtain $250,000 in funding to offset recovery costs from localized flooding during rain storms last month.
The county is also seeking to add communities hardest hit by the June 13 storm into the New York Rising Program, which provides funding for long-term mitigation projects.
"For the first time, we are taking a comprehensive look at what we have to do [in the] long-term," Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said. "There is a lot of work that has to be done in the county to be resilient. The key is how do we pull and leverage funding to help get it done."
The storms prompted a state of emergency and caused mudslides and flooding of small creeks, streams, highways, underpasses, country roads and farmland throughout the county.
This led to the evacuation of several residents, the destruction of private property, including the partial collapse of a home, and infrastructure damage. The towns of Root, Mohawk and Glen, as well as the village of Fonda and Canajoharie were among those hardest hit.
State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and federal officials Tuesday, requesting help on behalf of the county.
The letter said communities have been repeatedly hit by storms and are "fiscally stressed."
"The people of Montgomery County have shown incredible strength and resiliency in recovering from natural disasters," Tkaczyk said. "But the state and federal governments must provide us with the resources needed to rebuild the local community and economy."
Santabarbara said federal and state governments need to step up for the people of Montgomery County.
"This latest disaster is also a reminder of the need to support efforts to mitigate the damage from future storms," Santabarbara said.
State and local officials estimate there is more than $250,000 worth of damage to public infrastructure, with the cost to private citizens not yet fully calculated.
Emergency Management Director Jeffery Smith said because costs exceeded the state's threshold of $175,000 in damage, the county is eligible for any funding that becomes available.
Smith said public works crews are continuing to repair shoulders, culverts and ditches that were damaged during the flooding.
The increase in flooding over the years, Smith said, is a result of clogged culverts or ditches which are not being properly maintained.
"Some of it is attributed to poor budgets over the years, with manpower being cut, and the ability to finance the proper maintenance, because you are trying to keep taxes low," he said. "Sometimes the culverts are too small, just because they have been there for years and just how the climate has changed and the heavy rainstorms have come; they can't take the volume of water that is being forced to them."
Montgomery County District 5 Legislator Terry Bieniek, who is chairman of the county's Physical Services Committee, stressed the need to fund preventative measures that will lessen the damage of future storms. The committee oversees budgets for public works, roads and bridges, and transportation.
"We need to stop being reactive to flooding events and start being proactive," Bieniek said. "Any assistance from the state and federal level to clean out ditches and culvert pipes that are at risk for flooding will help mitigate future disasters."
Smith agreed, and said the county would be able to identify those long-term mitigation projects that would be eligible for funding through New York Rising.
In the meantime, Smith said the DPW continues to do the best it can with the resources available.
"Every time there is a 'hot spot', the DPW is sending crews out to clean that spot, ditch, upgrade the culvert and remove the debris," he said. "They are doing everything they can short-term to make sure it doesn't happen again but the potential is always still there when you have a bad weather event."