SCHUMER SECURES FEMA APPROVAL OF LONG STALLED TOWN OF HANCOCK HIGHWAY PROJECT; MOVE WILL IMPROVE INFRASTRUCTURE IN TOWN AND THROUGHOUT DELAWARE COUNTY
Region Was Declared Disaster Area in '06 After Severe Flooding- Funding Will Allow Reconstruction on Route 28
Future of Hancock Project Was Threatened Without FEMA Commitment on Environmental Impact
Schumer: FEMA's Decision is Big Win for Town of Hancock and Delaware County
Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has secured approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for infrastructure improvements in the Town of Hancock along Route 28 that come as a result of flooding which ripped through the Southern Tier in the summer of 2006. The project had been tied up in knots as the Town sought the go ahead from FEMA on the environmental impacts of the project so that it could lock in the necessary financing that will ultimately be reimbursed by FEMA. Now, with FEMA's signoff, Hancock can begin to secure financing for the design and construction of a new highway garage along Route 28. The Town of Hancock was forced to rent a facility in order to store the highway equipment since the flood of 2006. With the agreement secured by Senator Schumer the town will no longer need to allocate money on the rented facility.
"Getting the go ahead from FEMA on this project is a win, win, win. A win for the town, a win for the county and a win for the taxpayers," Schumer said. "The highway garage will make our roads safer and improve the region's infrastructure after the terrible storms that went through the area in '06."
In July of 2006 FEMA issued a disaster declaration for counties across the Southern Tier as a torrent of summer storms unleashed flooding on the region and caused damage throughout towns and cities. The storms battered much of Route 28 and made the need for a new highway garage all the more clear. Since the region was declared a disaster area local officials were allowed to apply for rehabilitation funds through FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, which becomes available after a presidential declaration is issued and FEMA determines that county and local governments cannot manage the high costs on their own. President Bush issued the declaration on July 1 of 2006. Every year Congress appropriates funding for the Disaster Relief Fund. The Disaster Relief Fund is typically authorized every five years, but recently has only received shortterm extensions. Congress will likely extend the Disaster Relief Fund very soon as part of a larger package of tax credit extensions, thereby enabling FEMA to issue project worksheets and meet its statutory obligations.
Once a local municipality applies for funding they are required to complete a project worksheet which helps the agency determine what level of funding the project will receive and if the proposed project would negatively impact the environment. Once FEMA approves a project worksheet the agency pledges to reimburse the local government for the rehabilitation costs. Because the funding comes in the form of reimbursements as opposed to upfront money, Hancock began the process of securing a bond to finance the initial phase of the project. FEMA has approved Hancock's project worksheet but as of yet had not issued a finding saying that the project would not have negative impacts on the local environment a finding that the proposed highway garage project would have negative environmental impacts would stop the project dead in its tracks or at the very least drastically increase the costs. Schumer pressed FEMA to give Hancock assurances that a negative environmental finding was not in the works so that the bond process could take place and construction on the new highway garage could begin in earnest. Today's assurance by FEMA that the rehabilitation project does not pose a threat to the region's environment clears a final and important hurdle to the project that will allow it to move forward.
Schumer added, "When a disaster rips through a region like the one that came through the Southern Tier in '06 it devastates infrastructure and it's FEMA's job to step and make sure local residents and governments can recover and rebuild. FEMA has finally said what we've known all along: a new highway garage in Hancock won't hurt the environment but it will be a positive step for the region's economy and infrastructure."