By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY April 12, 2005 Its all in the presidents hands.
Just over a week since heavy rains left behind at least $22.1 million in damages to roads, bridges, businesses and homes throughout Sullivan County, its up to President George W. Bush to determine whether the county is part of a national disaster.
Sullivan County Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic said all paperwork has been filed on the county level to ensure that towns and individuals who might be eligible for federal assistance are accounted for.
Requests have also been filed at the federal level by Governor George Pataki at the urging of U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, Congressman Maurice Hinchey and State Senator John Bonacic.
Unfortunately, its a familiar process for Sullivan officials who met with folks from FEMA back in September after Hurricane Ivan decimated the county.
FEMA officials were back in town Friday, Martinkovic said, touring Foxcroft Village in Loch Sheldrake and some of the devastation in the Town of Rockland.
There were plans to visit Jeffersonville and Hortonville as well, Martinkovic said.
Hinchey was also in town, visiting Holiday Mountain in Rock Hill and various sites in Livingston Manor.
Martinkovic is advising residents and business owners who sustained damage to keep good records of the work they do post-flood.
If people have damage, they need to make their property safe, take pictures before and after and keep their receipts, he said.
Property owners with insurance are advised to contact their agents immediately.
As for the rest, Martinkovic said theyre on their own for now.
If a federal disaster is declared, FEMA will return, and assistance may be offered to private property owners, but only to those who sustained damage to their living spaces.
That means a home, not sheds or pools.
No one should think FEMA will refund 100 percent for damage, Martinkovic said. All the federal government is trying to do is keep people from living on the street.
People shouldnt look to FEMA as being their insurance company.
When a federal disaster is declared, the county will be issued a four-digit number and told whether FEMA will be providing public assistance to municipalities, private assistance to property owners or both.
If that private assistance, called IA or Individual Assistance, is being offered, residents who sustained damage will be given a toll-free number to call.
They will use the four-digit storm number to identify when and how their home was damaged. FEMA will likely send out someone to view the damage and decide on the course of action.
Martinkovic said the process will take several months for muncipalities and individuals.
After the September storm, a claim center was set up in Monticello by FEMA, but it was poorly utilized, so Martinkovic does not expect that to happen again.
Besides, he said, at that time Sullivan County was competing with devastated communities in Florida for assistance, which tied up the 800 number.
Martinkovic is confident, however, that FEMA will be returning to the area.
Im hoping that in the very near future well hear something from the president, he said.