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County Board Hears Dam Update, Flood Recovery Report, Recognizes Bob Mann in Year-End Meeting

Written By Editor on 12/23/13 | 12/23/13


"Two years ahead of contract schedule," is what John Vickers of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection told the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors about New York City's efforts to build up the Gilboa Dam at Friday morning's December and year-end board meeting in Schoharie.
 
Vickers, who was assisted by regional engineer Mark Suttmeier in Friday's power-point presentation, stated that two of five phases were completed in dam reconstruction work thus far and that 165,000 tons of weight will be added to the dam at the project's conclusion, coming from the replacement of loose stone structure with concrete steps and 38 torsional anchors.
 
Town of Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone questioned why "there was not a dredging project attached to this as well," pointing out that there was a build up of sedimentation behind the dam and that they were losing storage of water supply. Mr. Vickers conceded there has not been a study on sediment build up since the nineties, and that they were planning to do one in the near future, but that "as long as sediment builds up in the dead storage area it has no impact on water storage."
 
In other county business, the Board of Supervisors heard from an AECOM representative that while there are "four highly qualified contractors to work on the four creeks," included in local efforts to address stream restoration, that seventeen landowners have still not signed on. Board Chairman Phil Skowfoe commented that the landowners were potentially "jeopardizing the project."
 
Possible ways for the project to move forward if the landowners continue to hold out is for either AECOM to redraw their plans or for the county to consider using eminent domain. In a startling admission, the AECOM representative revealed that they have "overshot their numbers," and are $400,000 over design costs as of now, although the money is available through Natural Resources Conservation Service grants the project has been awarded.
 
Schoharie County Treasurer and Recovery Coordinator William Cherry followed up AECOM's report with news that FEMA has officially denied the county's request to relocate the jail and Public Safety Facility to higher ground. FEMA maintains that the construction costs of rebuilding and code-mandated mitigation efforts should not be added with a total rebuilding price tag of $13.2 million and that they would only use the construction cost when calculating their "50% rule."
 
However, as Mr. Cherry pointed out, FEMA has added construction and mitigation costs together to exceed the 50% threshold in other projects across the country, but have insisted that those cases do not set a precedent, which the county disagrees with. The Treasurer also stated that State DEC officials may write a letter to FEMA saying that they do not encourage rebuilding in the flood plain.
 
The Board of Supervisors voted 12-0 on Mr. Cherry's recommendation to further appeal FEMA's position that they repair the existing building by presenting their arguments directly to officials in Washington D.C., with full support of New York Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Chris Gibson, as permitted in the appeal process.
 
On the lighter side of things, Town of Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer praised five departing members of the county board: Anne Batz of Broome, Donald Brandow of Conesville, Robert Mann of Blenheim, Thomas Murray of Cobleskill and Dan Singletary of Jefferson for their service, saying that "It's a good thing to have people you disagree with."
 
He followed up his praise by offering a motion of special recognition to Blenheim Town Supervisor Robert Mann, who he was elected to the Board of Supervisors with twenty years ago, that was agreed upon unanimously and with applause from all members of the county board. Mr. Mann wasn't present at Friday's meeting.
 
Members of the county board then approved a series of resolutions, committee motions and entered into a brief period of executive discussion, concluding the 2013 legislative session.
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