SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, FOLLOWING HIS PUSH, FEMA HAS AGREED TO FUND $3.1 MILLION NEEDED TO REPLACE VILLAGE OF WELLSBURG FIRE DEPT. & SAVE LOCAL TAXPAYERS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS – SENATOR, WHO HAS LONG ADVOCATED FOR WELLSBURG, PREVIOUISLY URGED FEDS TO EXPEDITE & APPROVE ADDITIONAL FED FUNDS TO MAKE VILLAGE FIRE DEPT. CONSTRUCTION A REALITY
Schumer Says FEMA Initially Approved $2.3 Million for Repairs to the Wellsburg Fire Dept. in 2014, But Funds Came Up Short & Project Would Now Cost Over $3 Million – Schumer Says FEMA Has Heeded His Call And Agreed to Fund Additional Repairs For Wellsburg
After Schumer’s Initial Push, FEMA Agreed to Fund Replacement of Wellsburg Fire Dept., But More Was Needed According to Local Leaders – Schumer Went to Bat For Wellsburg To Secure Additional Fed Funds; Years After Tropical Strom Lee Flooded Fire Station, Community Still Does Not Have Workable Facility, Putting Community At Risk
Schumer: Wellsburg Will Now Have Additional Federal Funds Signed, Sealed & Delivered to Move Fire Dept. Into a Safe, Flood-Proof Location
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) heeded his call and agreed to provide the additional funds the Village of Wellsburg in Chemung County needed to relocate the Wellsburg Fire Department. Schumer explained that the fire department sustained significant damage in Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Back in 2013, at his urging, FEMA reversed course and approved funding to relocate the flood ravaged facility. As a result, an in initial $2.3 million scope of work was approved, with a 75% federal cost share. However, the project was then slated to cost over $3 million due to unforeseen difficulties with the construction and delays in the timeline. Schumer pushed FEMA to approve the additional funds, bringing the total cost to $3.1 million, to make the relocation of the fire department possible. Schumer first called attention to this shortfall in June 2014 when he requested Administrator Fugate review this situation, pointing out that additional costs would be borne by taxpayers in this rural community if the project cap wasn't raised.
“This is great news for the Village of Wellsburg and the brave first responders who protect local residents every day, but have had to work out of a severely damaged fire station that is past the point of repair. I am pleased FEMA has heeded my request and approved these additional federal funds – bringing the total cost to $3.1 million – to make the rebuilding and relocation of the Wellsburg Fire Department possible. Now, the department will be placed in a safe location, away from the flood plain, and construction can begin,” said Senator Schumer. “I have long fought for this approval because this department provides an essential service to the community, and could no longer delay the rebuilding this facility out of harm’s way. After almost four years since the flooding, I am honored to have worked with the village to get this over the finish line and make sure Wellsburg will have the fire department it needs and deserves.”
“It’s been way too long and nerve wracking. Finally, with Senator Schumer’s help we’ve moved toward the proper funding for the facility. No one ever thought we’d get this project done. FEMA has listened and it appears that we, the Village of Wellsburg, won’t have to come up with any money for this important project,” said Mayor Malcolm Coles, Village of Wellsburg.
Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on the Village of Wellsburg, causing severe damage to the fire station. After the flood, the fire station lost important equipment and the fire fighter training room was destroyed. Schumer highlighted that Wellsburg has already persevered through numerous delays and setbacks as they sought to coordinate with FEMA in replacing this repeatedly-flooded fire station. In 2013, Schumer secured a $2.3 million commitment to completely relocate the Wellsburg Fire Department. However, the project was then slated to cost upwards to $3 million, due to unforeseen difficulties with the construction and delays in the timeline.
Schumer explained that the initial $2.3 million project, without the additional funds that bring the project to $3 million, placed too significant a burden on the Village of Wellsburg. That is why he is urged FEMA in April 2015 to expeditiously review and approve funds through alternative means such as the 428 Alternative Procedure program, or adjustment to the scope of work on the current improved project to bring the funding to a more significant total. Schumer urged FEMA to move this long effort to a positive conclusion by working with the village and the state to approve Wellsburg’s request for additional funding. Several critical emergency services are coordinated and deployed from this site; Wellsburg is used not only as a Fire Department but also serves as a barracks for New York State troopers. Schumer said it was essential that the Village has the ability to provide these life-saving services in the most effective and efficient a manner possible.
Schumer has long fought to secure federal funding for the Wellsburg Fire Department. Following Tropical Storm Lee in September of 2011, a FEMA team spent three months working hand-in-glove with Chemung County and the Village of Wellsburg in order to assess damage and repair costs, which resulted in the conclusion that repairs exceeded the 50 percent replacement rule needed to build a new facility. Following the original FEMA team’s damage assessment, a Building Assessment Team (BAT) was assigned and investigated the damage at the fire station for only three hours before reaching its conclusion. The BAT team reduced the damage estimates to 49.8 percent, just under the 50 percent replacement threshold. Because of the reduction made by the BAT team the fire station at Wellsburg was deemed no longer eligible for federal assistance to rebuild and relocate to a safe location. Schumer successfully urged FEMA Administrator Fugate to prioritize Chemung County’s project and use the original FEMA team’s preliminary Project Worksheet, which was based on greater research and diligence on the part of FEMA and would allow the fire station to relocate to a safe location.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s most recent letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Administrator Fugate,
I write today to draw your attention to an issue facing the Village of Wellsburg in Chemung County, New York. I have written you several times with regard to the need to relocate the Wellsburg Fire Department that sustained significant damage in Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. I am glad FEMA recognizes the need to relocate the facility out of the flood plain. However, the $2.3 million capped project that was agreed to places too significant a burden on the Village of Wellsburg. The project is now slated to cost upwards of $3 million, due to unforeseen difficulties with the construction and delays in the timeline.
I wrote you in June 2014 to raise the cost discrepancy between the Project Worksheet award and the Village’s engineering firm’s estimates. I am pleased that, following our advocacy efforts, FEMA has agreed to review the project under the 428 Alternative Procedures to bring the funding to a more significant total, and I appreciate the attention to this critical project. It is my understanding that FEMA is in communication with the village and the state regarding the 428 process as well as the possibility of changing the scope of work on the improved project, and that the Mayor has requested a meeting with FEMA next month.
To move this long effort to a positive conclusion, I urge FEMA to work quickly – and in tandem with the village and the state – to approve Wellsburg’s request for additional funding. Several critical emergency services are coordinated and deployed from this site. It is essential that the Village has the ability to provide these life-saving services in the most effective and efficient a manner possible. They can only do this with a flood-safe, clean and fully-functioning facility, which requires $3 million to be built properly.
A rural community like Wellsburg has few other means of funding such an important project. Again, I urge that you work with all resources at your disposal to promptly overcome any final obstacles to granting the additional funding needed to ensure the residents of Wellsburg and surrounding areas have the protection they need.
I once again thank you for your continued attention and cooperation with this matter. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator