Schumer urges FEMA to reverse course and provide Glen Aubrey Fire Department critical funding

By WBNG News

Schumer urges FEMA to reverse course and provide Glen Aubrey Fire Department critical funding

November 7, 2013 Updated Nov 7, 2013 at 2:53 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) In a personal phone call to Administrator Craig Fugate, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer urged Federal Emergency Management Agency to reverse its decision and accept the Glen Aubrey Fire Department’s appeal for assistance for the relocation of the fire station.

According to a news release from Schumer's office:

The station’s flood prone location has put residents at risk and cost Glen Aubrey thousands of dollars.

FEMA recently judged the facility to be “repairable” rather than “destroyed,” in effect cancelling the proposed relocation.  Glen Aubrey Fire Dept. has appealed FEMA’s decision and introduced additional information showing that the damage to their facility exceeds the 50% threshold required for relocation; meaning the cost of repairing the facility is over 50% of the cost of relocating and replacing.  The present location has sustained at least three incidents of flooding, rendering the station inoperable twice, which has resulted in two flood insurance claims and the need for FEMA funding.

Schumer emphasized in his call to Administrator Fugate that a reversal of FEMA’s decision would allow the Glen Aubrey Fire Department to move to a higher elevation, save taxpayer money in the long run, and allow the community to protect its residents instead of being left defenseless when the fire station floods.

“I have gone straight to the top to ask FEMA to reverse course and provide immediate relocation assistance to the Glen Aubrey Fire Department, instead of leaving local residents and firefighters out to dry the next time a flood strikes,” said Schumer. “The Glen Aubrey Fire Department’s appeal includes new and definitive evidence that their facility meets the FEMA qualifications for relocation assistance.  Moreover, we need a permanent solution, not a patch-work approach that is both costly and dangerous. Even one more closure of Glen Aubrey’s only fire station due to flooding is too many, and the federal government needs to provide the resources for a permanent solution for the Glen Aubrey Fire Department’s flood-prone location.

Schumer noted in his call to Administrator Fugate that flood damage had twice closed Glen Aubrey’s Fire Department in 2011, which temporarily hampered local firefighters ability to protect the community in both instances. The Village of Glen Aubrey, located in Broome County, has proposed a new site for the station, which is only half a mile away from the current location, but on a knoll that is higher and less vulnerable to flooding. FEMA has since denied their plan to relocate, and now Glen Aubrey Fire Dept. is appealing that decision based on additional information that shows the extent of the damage to the station exceeds the FEMA threshold for relocation.  Senator Schumer wrote Administrator Fugate in 2012 advocating on behalf of the Fire Department’s request for FEMA’s assistance in relocation.  Schumer reiterated that relocating the facility for the proposed $1.2 million is a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars than making repeated repairs to a facility that sits in harm’s way.

Schumer underscored two primary concerns with the current location of the Glen Aubrey Fire Department with Administrator Fugate. First, the constant risk of flood remains a crippling financial threat for the town. In 2011, the fire department has filed two flood insurance claims that totaled $350,000 after a flood on April 29th and September 7th. The April flood set the department back $150,000 in damages, and the September flood cost $200,000. Second, the threat of the fire department’s closure due to storms perpetually puts the local residents at risk during inclement weather, particularly because the Glen Aubrey Fire Department represents the only first responders in a large rural area. Since these two major flood events rainfall has made work difficult on several occasions at Glen Aubrey’s current location.

“It’s plain and simple,” Schumer continued. “FEMA’s initial assessment was made without all of the facts, and now that Glen Aubrey has provided additional evidence documenting the need for relocation, FEMA should reassess and reverse their decision. We shouldn’t be doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. This location floods, as history has proven time and time again, and it costs residents and agencies in near-constant repairs. Those who volunteer their time to save lives shouldn’t be burdened with repeated insurance claims, residents shouldn’t face station closings or delayed emergency responses, and federal dollars shouldn’t repeatedly be invested in a structure that isn’t safe.”

“Continual flooding at our current location not only is a constant problem in terms of cost, when we are flooded, we cannot help those in need.  The new location has no previous flooding; this is a win-win.  FEMA would not have to constantly reimburse us and we would have the peace of mind knowing we can provide uninterrupted service in the event of flooding.” Said Fire Chief Gary Smith. “Without the Senator, we would be nowhere in this push. We are happy he has seen the need for this relocation.”
Schumer pointed out that the new location would save both FEMA and Glen Aubrey thousands of dollars in future damage costs due to storms and ensure the heightened security of local residents. The proposed location poses a much smaller risk of flooding, and would serve as cost-saving measure for both the federal government and Glen Aubrey Fire Department, because the one-time expense of relocation would be dwarfed by the continued cost of repairing the fire department if it remains in its current floodplain.