(WBNG Binghamton) Friday, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer secured $3,416,269 in disaster funding for Tioga County from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to relocate vital Tioga County documents.
According to a news release:
This is 75 percent of the total $4,555,026 costs for the project, which is the highest level of FEMA reimbursement available for flood disaster work. Over a year ago, Tioga County was severely damaged along with the rest of the Southern Tier by unprecedented flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee. Residents have worked tirelessly to get their communities back in order, and have spent countless hours to restore the infrastructure, municipal buildings, and homes damaged in the flood. Until Schumer’s successful push, Tioga County officials had been unable to receive the promised funding to restore crucial County court house documents damaged last September.
At four Tioga County sites, buildings became inundated when Susquehanna River and its tributaries overflowed their banks. When the buildings were inundated by several feet of floodwater, a total of 2,975 cartons of Applicant-owned and maintained documents, 583 engineering drawings, and 962 ledgers were water damaged, either by being submerged in floodwater or being exposed to excess moisture and humidity for an extended period of time. The Applicant contracted with a vendor, Document Re-processors, under a GSA contract, to inventory, vacuum freeze dry, and sterilize a total of 2,975 cartons of documents. These processes created a stabilized document that could be handled with the use of PPE (proper protective equipment) under a laminar flow air hood. This process cost about $4.5 million dollars, and Schumer urged FEMA last week to reimburse Tioga County to the fullest extent possible.
“I applaud FEMA for providing a $3.4 million life raft for Tioga County to replace and relocate crucial documents one year after Tropical Storm Lee decimated the area,” said Schumer. “When the residents of Tioga County go without the immediate federal support needed for them to recover after disaster strikes, I will always fight to get them back on the road to recovery.”
Schumer noted in a personal letter to the top FEMA official last week that Tioga’s over $4 million expenditure to relocate the documents will be deducted from the County’s budget in mid-October, and could cripple the local economy. Prior to this massive bill, the County was already forced to slash costs and lay off 20 employees. The cost of document replacement, coupled with previous constraints, could put a serious strain on the County’s public finances. Tioga County has worked hard to keep the cost of document replacement and restoration down, and even outsourced the damaged documents to be sorted, freeze dried, and preserved at an out of pocket cost of $380,000. They also have committed two employees to a full-time sorting process in order to discern documents which need not be replaced. Schumer highlighted that Tioga County has taken the necessary steps to accomplish document replacement and return their operations to the status quo, and commended FEMA for stepping up and providing necessary disaster aid.
Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on Tioga County and its public facilities in September 2011, causing severe damage to public infrastructure and creating over 300 public assistance projects costing a total of over $30 million. The municipal building in Owego that was damaged during Tropical Storm Lee has to replace hundreds of vital documents, such as deeds and contracts for local businesses. Schumer noted that Tioga County has done everything in its power to ensure the swift replacement of any damaged documents.