By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR May 10, 2005 Even with FEMA on its way and a national disaster declaration from President Bush, Rockland residents are still in a holding pattern.
Town Supervisor Pat Pomeroy has applied for special funding from the federal government to buy out property owners who have been flooded again and again.
She hopes to get some answers soon.
Weve put a fire under them, she said. [The homeowners] want to get on with their lives right now theyre all living in limbo.
The monies, designated as pre-disaster mitigation grants, would allow the town to pay property owners to get off their land, turning the area into an official floodplain.
The property becomes vacant, never to be used again, Pomeroy explained. It can be used as parkland or recreation.
Pomeroy went to a two-day seminar in Albany to learn how to write the grant, and with help from the Sullivan County Department of Planning she put in a request for $1.5 million in an acquisition and relocation grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
Its very competitive; Im competing against California and Florida . . . but were being very aggressive, she said.
The plan is to buy out homes on spots such as Covered Bridge Road where 6 inches of rain decimated homes in September, and the water once again seeped into the lower floors of the houses in early April.
Because the grant requires a 25 percent match from the town, Pomeroy has applied for enough money to buy out 12 homes (about half).
Pomeroy said the town has to convince the federal government that this grant will save money in the end outweighing the cost of continually providing assistance to these homeowners, many of whom fall into a low-income bracket and few who can afford flood insurance.
The grants were supposed to be announced May 1, but no notice has come from Washington, DC.
And when representatives of Senator Charles Schumers office were in town viewing flood damage, Pomeroy made another plea for funding.
Schumer quickly responded, writing to Michael Brown, undersecretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, in support of the Rockland request.
In a press release issued last week, Schumer pledged his support to fund proactive measures in Rockland.
As the community recovers from the floods of this past spring, I am pleased the town had the foresight to apply for this grant, he said. I will fight for funding that could prevent future flooding in the hamlet of Livingston Manor.
Pomeroy said this is only one of the options the town is exploring, but its one of the best.
Its one step as far as getting the town on track, she said. Were never going to stop the flooding, but theres something we can do in terms of prevention.
Its just too many floods in too short a period of time.