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Democrat Photo by Fred Stabbert III

JUST HOW HIGH the floodwaters got can be dramatically seen at the Upper Delaware Campgrounds in Callicoon, where this picnic table was left sitting on a riverside tree’s branches a good 20 feet up.

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By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — September 24, 2004 – Donald Glendon doesn’t know how to sum up all that he lost when Hurricane Ivan dropped 8 inches of rain on Sullivan County last week – he just had to guess.
The Fremont Center resident was one of many who attended a meeting at the Fremont Town Hall Tuesday evening looking for answers, looking for help in filling out the paperwork they hope will be the key to the lockbox of FEMA and State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) funds.
“I just took wild guesses,” Glendon said with a shrug. “I went on what things are new – a new couch is $700, and I lost two of them . . .”
Municipal officers and residents across the county were attempting to find words and numbers that could adequately describe the tragedy that washed away much of their lives’ work in one fell swoop Saturday morning.
According to Julie Allen, spokesperson for U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey and a Tennanah Lake resident, the goal is to get every single thing you can down on paper.
“Don’t underestimate,” she said.
Funds will only be available from FEMA if the Saturday storm qualifies as a disaster on a federal scale – and there’s a certain minimum cost barrier that the damages will have to reach.
Allen said the real problem is that FEMA does not treat all the effects of one storm as part of one disaster – they’re broken up into what Allen called incidents.
So the flooding that decimated Westbrookville just a few weeks ago cannot be counted when Sullivan County asks for help – Allen surmised they might not even lump problems in, say, the Town of Highland with the Town of Fremont.
Her boss and other local representatives have written to both the governor and the president asking that this be looked at as one major disaster – all of the damages were caused by hurricane rains, all were flood-related.
Meanwhile, towns are trying to pull together all the information necessary to make a report to SEMO that can be forwarded on to the governor, who will in turn make a request of the president for a federal disaster declaration.
Governor George Pataki has already requested President George Bush issue a disaster declaration for 16 counties, including Sullivan.
According to Town of Fremont Supervisor Jim Greier, FEMA has helped the municipality before – but only with highway department problems, never private homes.
The last major flood in the Town of Fremont drew a $114,000 check from FEMA for the town’s highway department.
Now he and other county supervisors are hoping to get help for the business and homeowners who were affected so adversely by Hurricane Ivan.
“We’re trying this time because the disaster was so widespread,” Greier said Tuesday. “There’s no guarantee that we’re going to get anything, but we’ve got to start someplace.
“From what I understand, FEMA pays about 80 percent, the state pays about 13, and the rest is on our shoulders,” he explained.
A major problem for many supervisors is getting the word out to everyone affected – a number of summer residents who have already returned to their full-time homes haven’t been stopping at the town hall to fill out forms.
Town of Highland Supervisor Allan Schadt surmises the $1.8 million in damages to private homes and businesses that have been assessed so far only reflects 40 percent of those affected in his town.
A team of volunteers went door to door in the Town of Highland getting damage reports and leaving information on the reporting process for property owners.
“I feel that many people were not home when the volunteers went out,” Schadt said. “I urge them to call the town hall as soon as possible.”
Schadt said the majority of the damages in his township were sustained by businesses in the river corridor – especially canoe liveries which watched their equipment wash down the Delaware.
The Fahs-Rolston company working on the Shohola-Barryville Bridge lost at least a half million dollars in machinery and material alone, Schadt noted.
Schadt said he wants everyone affected to have the chance to put in for something.
“People do not have to have a written estimate,” he said, “just a rough guess of what it will cost to replace or repair what they lost.
“We need those numbers so that we can get the needed aid.”
Already, Schadt said, his town has compiled a list of road and municipal damages that tops $1.7 million.
And the numbers are far worse in some other townships.
Dick Martinkovic, director of emergency management for the county, said the preliminary reports total more than $20 million in damages countywide – with the worst of the reports centered in the towns of Bethel, Callicoon, Cochecton, Delaware, Fremont, Highland, Lumberland, Rockland and Tusten.
Sullivan County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Brian Brustman said he can’t even begin to estimate the damage along the county’s waterways.
“I’ve been getting calls yet today,” he said yesterday afternoon.
But, he said, meetings are ongoing with the Department of Environmental Conservation to answer people’s requests to get into the water and get to work.
“They will probably be issuing emergency work permits to allow people to do some restoration,” he said.
A number of sites are on the high end of his list, including municipalities which have asked to take an excavator into some of the brooks and streams that are filled with rock and debris.
Where there is no immediate threat to homes or buildings, Brustman said people need to wait for the permit process to be completed.
Calls for dredging which rang out in a number of towns, from Rockland to Delaware, are being reviewed.
But Brustman said that’s not the only solution.
“In a lot of spots, there’s a reason it keeps building up in those spots,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s a bad idea – anything that helps right now is a good thing.
“But does it give you one year, five years, 10 years?” he pondered. “It’s hard to say – it depends on the storms that we get.”
Work has commenced in some spots – Joe Brook was being dredged Tuesday afternoon after having breached its banks and causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the Town of Delaware Town Barn.
A permit for that work had been acquired prior to the storm from the DEC. Highway Superintendent Bill Eschenberg was busy that afternoon trying to get easements from folks in Kohlertown to pull stone debris from Hess Brook – which the DEC OK’d last week as well.
Eschenberg and other highway superintendents said they would use any rock they could get from the creekbeds to help repair roads damaged by the flood.
Democrat Reporter Susan Monteleone contributed to this report.

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