SCHUMER PUSHES FEDS TO CUT RED TAPE AND APPROVE FED FUNDING TO REBUILD BROOME COUNTY’S GLEN AUBREY FIRE DEPARTMENT OUTSIDE OF FLOOD ZONE FEDS HAVE PREVIOUSLY DENIED FUNDING FOR RELOCATION, DEPRIVING COMMUNITY OF ESSENTIAL FIRE & PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES
Glen Aubrey Fire Department Was Destroyed In 2011 By Tropical Storm Lee And Needs to Relocate Facilities Outside Flood Zone to Avoid Future Flood Damage, But FEMA Has Unwisely Rejected Application For Funding
FEMA Previously Denied Glen Aubrey’s Request For Fed Funds For Relocation And Fire Department Has Been Under Appeal Since Fall 2013; New “428 Alternative Procedure” Process Would Expedite Funding, But FEMA is Still Dragging Its Feet, Incorrectly Claiming Substantial Repairs Have Been Completed
Schumer to FEMA: Minimal Repairs to Keep Residents Safe Should Not Preclude Glen Aubrey From Fed Funding That Would Bring Much-Needed New, Flood-Proof Facility to Residents in Broome County
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate to approve federal funding to rebuild and relocate the Glen Aubrey Fire Department out of the flood zone. The fire department, which was destroyed in 2011 during Tropical Storm Lee, has been denied the funding needed to relocate its facility outside the flood. Schumer said Glen Aubrey’s initial application to relocate had been denied by FEMA due to technicalities and must be reconsidered. Schumer said that the Glen Aubrey Fire Department in Broome County initially applied for FEMA funding following the storm to relocate outside the flood zone (the building had been inundated on two previous occasions). Due to continuous flood risk, the facility needs to be relocated to provide efficient and effective emergency services. FEMA denied the request for relocation in 2013, and the facility’s application has been mired in red tape and stuck in eternal appeal since Fall 2013.
Recently, Senator Schumer urged Administrator Fugate to consider the 428 Alternative Procedure process for the project, which would expedite funding and provide additional flexibility for this critical public safety facility. In yet another roadblock, FEMA has since said that the project may not be eligible for the Alternative Procedures process because they have begun construction on the facility. Senator Schumer strongly disagrees with this. Glen Aubrey has repeatedly stated that they’ve only made bare bones repairs to keep facility operational and continue to carry out their duty to protect Broome County residents, as well as to ensure that the building is compliant with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards. The Fire Department has also not yet begun any construction on the new facility. As a result, Schumer urged FEMA to reconsider this request and expeditiously approve federal funds for a new Glen Aubrey fire department facility.
“Enough already. For three years now, FEMA has put up bureaucratic hurdles and mounds of red tape that have prevented the Glen Aubrey Fire Department from getting the funding it needs and deserves to relocate its facility outside the flood plain so it can effectively protect life and property for the people of this community,” said Senator Schumer. “After its facilities were destroyed during Tropical Storm Lee, the Fire Department made some changes to ensure the it would at least be able to operate for the safety of residents, but no good deed goes unpunished and this wise decision is now coming back to haunt Glen Aubrey. The fact that FEMA is dragging its feet on the quicker 428 alternative procedure because of minimal repairs made to an old facility is flat-out wrong. So I am urging FEMA Administrator Fugate to reconsider his agency’s position and give Glen Aubrey the funding it needs to move its fire department to a safe location outside the flood zone. I will not let federal bureaucrats sit on their hands while this fire department remains in harm’s way.”
Schumer said that the Glen Aubrey Fire Department was destroyed in Tropical Storm Lee, prompting the need to ask for federal funding to begin reconstruction. Although the fire department completed some minor repairs to ensure the facility could remain functional, it still lies in the heart of the region’s flood plain. Schumer says as long as the Glen Aubrey Fire Department remains in the flood zone it risks the threat of further flood damage. Schumer said this increases the need to allocate federal funding to Glen Aubrey to move its fire department to a safe location outside the flood zone. Schumer said because of the facility’s rural location and due to the history of flooding in the region, the Glen Aubrey Fire Department risks having an inoperable public safety facility. Due to significant delays with FEMA Appeal Process, Glen Aubrey and Senator Schumer requested that FEMA consider the 428 Alternative Procedure in 2014 to expedite funding for this integral Broome County facility. In his December 2014 letter, Schumer recommended the alternative procedures process as a means to expeditiously resolve the project, so the village can rebuild the facility they need to protect Broome County residents. FEMA responded that the facility may be ineligible for the 428 process because the village had completed a significant amount of construction, and said that a final decision on the village’s eligibility could not be made until the appeal, which was submitted in fall 2013, was adjudicated.
Schumer disputed FEMA’s reasoning of its funding denial on two fronts. First, these bare bones repairs were necessary because without them the facility would not meet OSHA standards and would pose a major public safety risk to Glen Aubrey and surrounding areas. Schumer said that despite these repairs the facility was still in the flood zone and as such was at risk for further flood damage, and so the village still needed a new, relocated facility. Second, Schumer said Glen Aubrey’s request under the 428 process was made in order to expedite the decision on relocation which has been under the first appeal since September 2013. FEMA stated that Glen Aubrey’s ability to participate in the 428 process would be made after a final decision on the first appeal is reached, which has only prolonged the village’s recovery process even further.
Schumer urged Administrator Fugate to make a decision as soon as possible on funding for the Glen Aubrey Fire Department relocation project. Schumer said the longer FEMA waits, the longer the Glen Aubrey Fire Department is at risk for flood damage. Schumer says this is especially dangerous given that New York is currently in the midst of flood season. Schumer said that if another flood damages Glen Aubrey Fire Department beyond repair, this area of Broome County will be without essential public safety service.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Administrator Fugate,
I write to once again urge you to begin the Section 428 alternative procedure process for the Glen Aubrey Fire Department (FEMA 4031 DR-NY, PW: 2534). The Glen Aubrey Fire Department has been awaiting Public Assistance since its facility was destroyed in 2011. I strongly support the 428 procedure as it seems to be the quickest method for the Glen Aubrey Fire Department to receive the funding it needs to relocate its facility outside the flood plain, helping to ensure that it would be safe from future flood events.
Last December, I supported Glen Aubrey Fire Department’s initial request for the 428 process. As you know this project has been under FEMA adjudication in one form or another since the village’s request for relocation was denied in 2012. It remains my hope the 428 process would be an expeditious and amicable way to reach an agreement to build this integral public safety facility in an area away from flood hazards. In February, FEMA all but denied the Applicant’s request, stating that because construction had begun, there was a question as to whether or not FEMA had the authority to approve a fixed estimate subgrant under the 428 process. FEMA explained that they would reconsider the 428 request after a decision was made on Glen Aubrey’s original appeal.
First, I would like to address FEMA’s statement that a significant amount of construction on the facility has been completed. Glen Aubrey Fire Department has completed only repairs to their current facility so that they can continue to protect Broome County residents as is their duty. It should be made clear that there has been no construction started on the replacement facility, for which they have submitted a request for the 428 process. The argument that essential repairs to the current facility could affect FEMA’s authority to approve funds for a relocated facility is moot.
Second, the applicant’s impetus for requesting the 428 process was to expedite the decision on relocation which has been under first appeal since September 2013. FEMA stated that Glen Aubrey’s eligibility to participate in the 428 process will ultimately be established after a final decision on the first appeal is reached, which could end up making the 428 process unnecessary, and has only prolonged the process even further. FEMA has indicated that the decision on the first appeal will be made soon; I urge you to finalize that decision as expeditiously as possible so Glen Aubrey can receive the funding they need to rebuild.
With the aforementioned considerations, I urge you to begin the Section 428 process with the Glen Aubrey Fire Department. As a rural volunteer fire department, they must be able to operate to the best of their ability at all times. The continued delays are unconscionable for a public safety facility. The necessity of a relocated facility is clear. Recurring floods have rendered the current facility in operable and there will surely be similar events in the future. I must commend Glen Aubrey in recognizing the need for relocating the facility outside the flood plain. I hope that you can see the necessity as well.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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