U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expedite approval for the demolition and relocation plans for the Town of Hancock's Highway Garage building that was submerged in seven feet of water during the June 2006 floods. After FEMA initially agreed to fund repairs, additional damages were uncovered, and the original location was deemed unsafe for reconstruction. Six months ago, the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and town officials submitted a request for an amended Scope of Work (SOW) that would approve the measures necessary to relocate and construct a new facility. To this point, FEMA has failed to approve the application forcing taxpayers to pay costly rental fees for a temporary garage and office and preventing the town from moving forward with construction. The Town is also seeking reimbursement for these fees from FEMA.
In an effort to secure an expedited approval for a new project plan and save taxpayers from paying unnecessary rent, Schumer wrote a letter to FEMA ActingAdministrator Nancy Ward, urging the agency to swiftly issue the necessary documents so the Town can immediately begin work on a new Highway Garage Building.
"Six months is too long for FEMA to be dragging its feet when Town of Hancock officials and SEMO have worked so diligently to fulfill FEMA requirements," said Schumer. "The longer that FEMA stalls on approval for a new project plan, the longer taxpayers will be forced to pay rent for a temporary garage building and the longer they must wait to put their town back together. I will do everything I can to end this wasteful delay and help the Town of Hancock secure a new project plan so that construction can begin immediately on a new and improved Highway Building Garage."
In the summer of 2006, the Southern Tier was hit by disastrous flooding, which uprooted families and left widespread destruction in its wake. In recent years, Delaware County, including the Town of Hancock, has been struck particularly hard, suffering several severe weather disasters. When, waters raged through the Town of Hancock in June 2006, the Town's Highway Garage building was flooded beyond repair.
After FEMA issued the initial project worksheet for the Highway Garage building, additional damages were uncovered, the building was condemned, and the location was deemed unsafe for reconstruction. In light of these new developments, on July 27, 2007, SEMO and FEMA conducted a joint site visit and noted the additional damage eligible for federal assistance. Local and state officials have since worked together to compile specifications for the demolition of the condemned building and to commission an engineering proposal for the relocation of the Highway Garage building.
The Town of Hancock is currently paying over $2,300 a month in taxpayer dollars to pay rental fees for a temporary garage and office, while the plans for work on the new location await FEMA approval. On September 15, 2008, SEMO reviewed the studies and sent a renewed request for a project worksheet but FEMA has failed to approve the new project.
To secure an expedited approval of the Town of Hancock and SEMO's request for an updated project worksheet, Schumer wrote FEMA Acting Administrator Ward urging the agency to approve a new project design and location for the building
In the letter, Schumer wrote, "As the Town of Hancock continues to pick up the pieces nearly three years after the historic June 2006 floods, we must do all we can to help the community recover."