Time is ticking for Tioga County to secure $15M for flood recovery

By Perry Russom

February 13, 2014 Updated Feb 13, 2014 at 3:04 AM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Time is ticking for Tioga County to secure millions from the state in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program.

The county could win up to $15 million in upgrades to five communities in the county. Each of the communities could see as much as $3 million. They are Town of Nichols, Village of Nichols, Town of Owego, Village of Owego and Town of Tioga.

For the past few months, the Tioga County Rising Communities committee has been developing a set of priorities on a town-by-town basis to present to the state by the end of March, but the reality of what can be done is sobering.

"We just don't have the ability to prevent another flood," said John Baust, co-chairman of Tioga County Rising Communities. "There's really no way to reduce the inflow of water into the river."

The state issued the program to provide relief for the hardest hit areas from the 2011 floods.

Upgrades the county could see include emergency weather alert warning systems, moving public offices off the floodplain and updating bridges.

The committee's recommendations were presented to the public for the third time since the program's inception Wednesday night for feedback.

While some were appeased by the presentation, others worry too many people are leaving the area for this to fully work.

"All of my neighbors, you know a lot of them, have already left and if there's threats of another flood, there won't be anybody left to alarm," said Karen Worden of Owego. "They'll be gone."

There's a possibility Tioga County won't rake in the full $15 million, but the upgrades they're proposing cost more than the funds the state is offering.

The committee said supplemental grants could help pay the costs.

By March 31, the county has to send in all requested upgrades for the state to analyze. First, the projects will be approved followed by the money. Baust said the county will get the official notice of what projects are funded and how much money they will get from the state by early fall.

If all goes according to plan, upgrades can be expected to be seen within the next five years.

Here's the list of the different projects Tioga County Rising Communities is proposing:

Town of Nichols:
-New facility for Town of Nichols highway barn ($1 million)
-New joint fire station ($2 million)
-Emergency weather alert/warning system ($50,000)
-Update comprehensive plan and zoning ($75,000)
-Inspect and upgrade bridges and culverts ($258,000)
-Increase economic development and tourism by implementing Nichols Revitalization Plan ($3 million)

Village of Nichols:
-Secure levee accreditation to protect properties and help avoid high flood insurance ($700,000)
-Emergency weather alert warning system ($50,000)
-Solar-powdered electronic message (price not available)
-Purchase and install generator for Nichols satellite emergency operations center ($70,000)
-Implement recreation and creek stabilization ($1 million)
-Upgrade streets, sidewalks and lighting along Main Street ($1 million)

Town of Owego:
-Shared services campus out of flood plain to house the town and village offices ($2.3 million)
-Replace Main Street water pump house and wall head ($1 million)
-Replace Gaylord Road culvert ($347,000)
-Extend public water and sewer on Route 434 ($4.9 million)

Village of Owego:
-Shared services campus with the town ($2.5 million)
-Develop comprehensive storm water management plan and construct improvements ($500,000)
-Partner with Binghamton University, Cornell University and Corning, INC. to conduct incubator feasibility study ($350,000)
-Emergency preparedness and notification plan by installing an early warning siren ($175,000)
-Update village's resiliency tools including zoning ($225,000)

Town of Tioga:
-Raise 1/4 mile section of south end of Halsey Valley Road ($1.5 million)
-Purchase and install a salt shed and cover ($460,000)
-Working with United States Post Office to realign zip code ($20,000)
-Explore low cost energy alternatives and or natural gas ($75,000)
-Design and construct municipal sewer usage with Tioga Center School ($2 million)

Regional Plans:
-Establish a regional flood recover and revitalization office ($150,000)
-Undertake regional soil and water conservation district related projects ($935,000)
-Regional River Initiative, a partnership of Tioga County, Broome County and Sidney (no price available)