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Gov. Cuomo pitching in after Adirondack flooding.
Gov. Cuomo pitching in after Adirondack flooding.

Cuomo: state will pick up local costs of Irene flooding

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that the state will spend nearly $4 million helping Adirondack communities rebuild after tropical storm Irene.

The money will go to pay the local share of matching funds required as part of the Federal government's FEMA aid.

As Brian Mann reports, Cuomo says he's still pressuring FEMA to offer more aid to individuals and businesses.

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State Agriculture commissioner Darrel Aubertine, Keene supervisor Bill Ferrebee (Photo:  NYS Governor's Office)

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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When the Federal Energency Management Agency rolled into the North Country last August, they promised to pay 75% of major clean-up costs after tropical storm Irene.

That sounds generous.  But the formula for matching those funds initially required small mountain towns to pick up about 12% of the cost. 

Speaking yesterday in Middleburgh, Governor Cuomo said that price tag is just too high for local communities to cover.

"This is to reimburse local governments for their costs in doing the damage control and the numbers obviously are very large," Cuomo said. "The state is going to pay the local share."

While Cuomo was in Middleburgh, state Agriculture Secretary Darrel Aubertine – co-chairs the upstate flood recovery task force – was in Keene delivering the same message.

“Here in northern New York, those costs to localities are projected to exceed $2.5 million,” Aubertine said. 

“And as these local officials I’m sure would verify, that’s a burden they simply can’t afford. The lack of resources could jeopardize the recovery efforts, with communities even holding off on critical projects.”

According to an analysis compiled by the Albany Times-Union, the local flood aid to the North Country will actually total nearly $4 million.

Bill Ferebee, town supervisor in Keene, says that relief will be felt in his community in tangible ways.

“For the town of Keene, this means a lot of for us,” he said. 

“We did have to eliminate some services that we provide, so with this cost of the 12.5% that will not be laid on us, we can maybe put some of these [services] back in our budget for next year.”

Much of the North Country's share of the money will go to communities in Essex County that bore the brunt of the storm’s flood surge, wiping out neighborhoods and destroying roads and sewer systems. But Clinton, Warren and Franklin counties will also receive sizable chunks of aid.

Aubertine says a wide range of projects will be eligible for the matching funds.

“These funds will be used to cover local costs of emergency shelters, roads, water systems, and infrastructure repairs, stream and riverbed mitigation, and other clean-up costs," he said.

While local officials praised yesterday’s announcement, Governor Cuomo was also asked about complaints that some individuals and businesses still haven’t received direct aid from FEMA. 

Cuomo generally praised the Obama administration’s response to tropical storm Irene, but he said more needs to be done.

"We've heard the same complaints that youve heard, that the Federal government hasn't moved fast enough."

In his role as agriculture commissioners, Darrel Aubertine says farms hit hard by Irene are beginning to bounce back – thanks in part to state and federal aid and due to this year’s mild weather.

"I think the Ag community is doing reasonably well," he said.

State officials say more announcements are likely in the next week about funding for future projects designed to prevent flood disasters like shoring up dams, culverts and other infrastructure.

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