04.28.15

SCHUMER: MORE FED FUNDING NEEDED TO REPLACE VILLAGE OF WELLSBURG FIRE DEPT. & SAVE LOCAL TAXPAYERS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS – SENATOR, WHO HAS LONG ADVOCATED FOR WELLSBURG, URGES FEDS TO EXPEDITE & APPROVE ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR VILLAGE TO MAKE FIRE DEPT. CONSTRUCTION A REALITY

Schumer Says FEMA Approved $2.3 Million for Repairs to the Wellsburg Fire Dept. in 2014, But Funds Came Up Short & Project Would Now Cost Nearly $3 Million

After Schumer’s Initial Push, FEMA Agreed to Fund Replacement of Wellsburg Fire Dept., But More is Needed According to Local Leaders; Years After Tropical Strom Lee Flooded Fire Station, Community Still Does Not Have Workable Facility, Putting Community At Risk 

Schumer: Feds Should Help Deliver Every Last Penny Needed to Rebuild Wellsburg FD in a Safe, Flood-Proof Location

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today intensified his push for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide the additional funds the Village of Wellsburg in Chemung County needs to relocate the Wellsburg Fire Department, that sustained significant damage in Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Schumer explained that, back in 2013, at his urging, FEMA reversed course and approved funding to relocate the flood ravaged facility. As a result, $2.3 million scope of work was approved, with a 75% federal cost share. However, the project is now slated to cost upwards to $3 million, due to unforeseen difficulties with the construction and delays in the timeline. 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. 

“I have long fought for the replacement of the Wellsburg Fire Department – in a safe location away from the flood plain – because it is such an essential service to the community, and we can no longer tolerate delay in rebuilding this facility out of harm’s way,” said Schumer. “FEMA should swiftly review and approve the additional funds that are needed to make this project a reality, which would ultimately mean hundreds of thousands of dollars more for taxpayers to cover the difference if FEMA does not follow through. After almost four years since the flooding, FEMA needs to get this right - this is an issue of public safety and I will fight tooth and nail to get this fire department the funding it needs.”

Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on the Village of Wellsburg, causing severe damage to the fire station. Schumer stated that FEMA should be doing more, not less, to prioritize recovery efforts in Chemung County. 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 is now slated to cost upwards to $3 million, due to unforeseen difficulties with the construction and delays in the timeline.

Schumer explained that this $2.3 million project, without the additional funds that bring the project to $3 million, places too significant a burden on the Village of Wellsburg. That is why he is urging FEMA 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 is 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 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 will 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.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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