Flood buyout info is Middletown topic

By Pauline Liu
Residents and business owners whose properties were wrecked by tropical storms Irene and Lee may be able to qualify for assistance towards a buyout, an elevation or relocation through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
At the request of the Delaware County Planning Department, Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller has invited about 70 hard-hit residents and business owners to an informational meeting at Middletown Town Hall on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m.

“It’s a public meeting for people who may qualify,” said Miller. “The meeting will be run by the Delaware County Planning Department. They’re doing it for all of Delaware County. They’ve handled these before and have a lot more expertise.”  

According to the notice, which Miller sent out to the property owners last week, “A structure is considered ‘substantially damaged’ when a local official determines that damage exceeds 50 percent of the replacement cost value of the structure.” The FEMA grant requires a 25 percent local share. Where that funding is coming from has apparently not yet been determined.

Following the flood of 1996, FEMA partnered with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to buyout some severely damaged area homes. Miller explained that there’s no way to know how many would be accepted into the program until they apply. “After a flood in Sidney in 2006, 121 people applied, by the time they finished, there were 15,” she said.

County presentation
The county planners held a grant meeting in flood stricken Sidney on Tuesday night. They will be bringing the same presentation to Middletown on Thursday night.  Chief Planner Shelly Johnson-Bennett made a short presentation about the grant at Middletown’s organizational meeting on January 3. She is expected to return along with Senior Planner Kent Manuel to make a presentation before the property owners and town board members. 

Arkville resident Judy German received a notice and is mulling over whether to attend. “I’m very interested in this thing, but until they get this straightened out (where the 25 percent local share is coming from), I’m not going to get all shook up,” she said.  Was her home severely damaged? “Well, that all  depends on who’s looking at it. The main thing is these streams have to be dug out. We can’t prevent floods, but we can help prevent  flooding. There are too many tree stumps, gravel bars and stones blocking the water from flowing,” she added. 

Miller said she is interested in seeking a grant for flood mitigation repairs, but she explained that the focus of this grant is to “address those areas that have experienced repetitive damage.” “It’s federal money that goes to the state to do hazard mitigation,” Miller said. “These grants come down four times a year from the federal and state governments. Owners of business or residential properties that experience damage of 50 percent or more can qualify.  What we want to do is long-range planning around flood mitigation,” she added. 

The Middletown Town Board must still vote on whether the town should participate in the grant program. If it does, Miller will be required to send the county planners a letter of intent by the end of February. For more information, contact Miller at town hall at 586-2462, or by email at middsuper@catskill.net.