City, towns weigh flood recovery plans

AMSTERDAM – On Saturday, residents of the town and city of Amsterdam and the town of Florida met with the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program committee to learn about different flood recovery plans that could help the municipalities.

Each of the municipalities has been allocated $3 million through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help out with recovery efforts from flood damage caused by tropical storms Irene and Lee. The 2011 storms caused such severe flooding that Amsterdam’s Amtrak station flooded; bridges over the Mohawk River were shut down, cutting residents on the south side of the city off from medical services to the north; and streets were labeled as “high-risk” flood zones.

The program is managed through the Department of State and as the communities decide which projects they want to move forward with, they have to go through a vetting process under the specifications of the Community Development Block Grant- – Disaster Recovery.

“As long as the communities can identify appropriate ways to spend the money, then it’s theirs,” Amy Mahl, lead planning director of the program said. “All the projects have to be eligible for the CDBG-DR funding program and they have to be a priority to the community in order for them to propose up to the state for them to send it up to HUD for them to say this is how the community wants to spend their money.”

At Saturday’s meeting the program committee let residents read project details for the different municipalities and mark their favorite project proposals with stickers.

Some of the different project types include infrastructure for drinking water, sewers and damaged roads; community planning for use of land; historic and cultural resources; storm water management; stream restoration; emergency services and economic development.

The communities have until the end of March to decide what project plan applications they want to submit.

Robert von Hasseln, program committee member and Amsterdam’s director of Community and Economic Development, said he thinks the program is a very wise decision and will have positive results for the municipalities.

“This is something that’s long overdue,” Hasseln said.

City of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said she’s in favor of several of the projects.

“Identifying more of the storm-sewer connections in the city and mitigating those problems is an important project that will help us address the [Department of Environmental Conservation] mandates that we are under to take care of these problems,” Thane said. “Relocating the train station to downtown is also very important to us because the train station is on a flood plain right now and moving it back downtown would … help our economy.”

Mark Kilmer, director of the Fulton-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the program committee, said the most important part of the project is listening to what the residents want.

“No one knows the effects of flooding more than the people who have lived through it and that’s what we’re trying to do, bring the people that were in the heart of the flood zones to tell us what happened to them and tell us what they want to happen,” Kilmer said. “The weather isn’t going to get better down the road, so we need to find ways to mitigate and become stronger.”