FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5, 2012
AT SCHUMER’S URGING, FEMA PLANS TO REPLACE OWEGO APALACHIN SCHOOL DISTRICT FACILITIES – UNTIL NOW, LOCALS AND FEMA AT IMPASSE OVER FUTURE OF SCHOOL BUILDINGS THAT WERE SEVERELY DAMAGED IN TROPICAL STORM LEE
Schumer Announces FEMA Plans to Replace Owego Apalachin School District Facilities Damaged In Lee-- The Decision Clears a Major Hurdle In Tioga County’s Recovery Efforts
Today’s News Follows Personal Meeting Between Schumer & FEMA Admin. Fugate & Means FEMA Will Step Up and Prioritize Rebuilding of Infrastructure, 8 Months After Storm
Schumer: FEMA’s Decision Clears Major Hurdle In Getting Local Residents, Teachers & Students The Relief They Deserve
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that at his urging, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plans to fund the replacement of the flood-ridden Owego Apalachin School District facilities, including the elementary school, with built in mitigation efforts. This decision clears a major hurdle in Tioga’s ability to bounce back from Tropical Storm Lee and will now move forward with approval process. In May, Schumer hosted a meeting in his Washington D.C. office with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and highlighted the troubling pace and attention towards repairs in the Owego Apalachin School District, which experienced severe damage to five of its seven buildings during the storm, four of which were rendered uninhabitable.
Since Tropical Storm Lee flooded the region in September, for which Tioga County was deemed eligible for FEMA Public Assistance, a team of local experts, including engineers and architects, assessed public infrastructure and the cost for repairs. After five months of this work, the District Team submitted its cost analysis to a FEMA Public Assistance Team that reviewed and validated the work. However, that team was replaced by a different group of FEMA officials that imposed additional requirements on Tioga County officials, such as repeated requests for documentation of damage to buildings, which only extended the timeline for repairs. Today’s news means that FEMA has heeded Schumer’s call, and plans to fund the replacement of the school facilities.
“I am pleased that FEMA has stepped up to the plate and removed the major roadblocks in the way of Tioga County and the Owego Apalachin School District’s recovery efforts from Tropical Storm Lee,” said Schumer. “In my meeting last month with FEMA Administrator Fugate in Washington, I urged him to help address this particularly troubling situation in Tioga County, in which FEMA’s slow response and attention to repair projects was putting the Owego Apalachin School District rebuilding efforts at a stand-still. Today’s announcement means that FEMA has heeded that call, and local residents, parents, teachers and students can rest assured that they are a step closer toward the replacement of their school facilities. I will continue to be an advocate for the district and county’s recovery efforts. After disaster strikes, it’s the federal government’s obligation to help local communities repair and rebuild local infrastructure and this coordinated effort to move this public service project forward does just that. I appreciate FEMA’s efforts and look forward to working with them to rebuild Owego Apalachin School District’s facilities.”
Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on Tioga County and its public facilities in September 2011, causing severe damage to public infrastructure and creating over 300 public assistance projects costing a total of over $30 million. The Owego Apalachin School district was particularly damaged, with five of its seven buildings badly damaged, and four rendered uninhabitable, including the Owego Elementary School and the District’s administration building. The high school, middle school and athletic complex and fields also suffered major damage. Since the storm, a team of engineers, architects and other local officials have worked diligently to assess all the damage, which after 5 months was completed and submitted to the FEMA Public Assistance team assigned to the school district. This team reviewed the submission and validated Owego’s estimation of the cost to repair these public structures.
Schumer stated that the path to recovery met resistance when the initial FEMA team was replaced with a new FEMA Building Assessment team, one that was unfamiliar with the public projects in Tioga County. This new team put in place by FEMA had repeatedly challenged the determinations and damage assessments made by the District’s group of experts, and instead of working to move flood and storm recovery forward, had put unnecessary demands, such as a new list of tests and documentation of public damage, on the team of engineers, architects and industry experts that had previously submitted a complete application to the original FEMA Public Assistance Team.