By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY July 4, 2006 The state of emergency has been lifted, but recovery has only just begun.
Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic called it the worst we ever had.
Although last weeks flooding devastated just eight of the countys 15 townships (compared to the countywide damage in April 2005), Martinkovic said the early estimates show the velocity of the rain, the short time frame in which flooding happened and the total damage make it a 1-in-500-years storm.
The Town of Rockland was hardest hit, Martinkovic said, followed by Callicoon and the towns from Fremont to Lumberland along the Delaware River.
President Bush has declared a federal disaster area for not only Sullivan County but the entire state.
Its good news, Martinkovic said, but theres still a long road ahead.
Currently, the only FEMA funding available to Sullivan County will be limited to municipalities for debris removal and repairs needed on roadways and municipal facilities (such as sewer plants).
Individual Assistance (IA) has not yet been made available from the government and that declaration will have to come from the president before property owners can make their own applications.
We are all crossing our fingers based on what our elected officials said when they toured the Town of Rockland Friday, Martinkovic said, referring to statements made by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer and Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
County roads are all open, but Martinkovic advises residents to proceed with caution because work crews are still out repairing shoulders.
A majority of town roads have also been reopened, although Neer Road in the Acidalia section of the Town of Fremont wont be open for at least a month, and J. Young Road in the Town of Callicoon is still being fixed.
With a number of bridges gone, the county is looking to rebuild. Special attention is being given to the Kohlertown area of Jeffersonville where the Back Bridge was washed away leaving residents stranded on the dead-end Taylor Road.
The county is hoping to put a temporary bridge in place at that spot, Martinkovic said.
Where to Find Help
The state has set up a disaster recovery site at the county airport in White Lake, with state agency representatives on hand to answer questions between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily (including July 4).
The New York State Department of Labor, NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal, NYS Office of Mental Health and others will be represented.
Greg Feicht, head of health and human services for the county, will be serving as the states human needs coordinator in Sullivan County.
Martinkovic will continue in his current position, working as liaison between FEMA and the local municipalities and if IA is approved the residents.
A phone number will be released if that happens, and residents will be able to call, apply, and arrange for an adjuster to come out to inspect their flood damage.
Martinkovic said residents with flood insurance should contact their agents rather than FEMA.
FEMA will automatically defer to carriers, he said.
And theres no point in applying for help at a summer residence or for the replacement of a toolshed or landscaping.
FEMAs help is for individual assistance with living space only, he cautioned. Theyre not an insurance company.
Other efforts are under way countywide to help residents and business owners who are waiting for FEMA.
The American Red Cross has established a base in the Livingston Manor Central School on School Street. Caseworkers will head out from there to assess the need in the various communities, and people can go to the school for assistance.
How to Offer Help
The United Way, with help from Thunder 102, is looking for non-perishable food, personal care products, new clothing and items such as work gloves at the United Way building at 33 Lakewood Avenue in Monticello.
A booth set up by Schmidts Wholesale and Thunder 102 in the parking lot at Wal-Mart in Monticello Saturday afternoon brought in donations, and Thunder 102 Deejay Paul Ciliberto said the station is looking for other spots to set up and accept donations.
Anyone with donations or a place to set up a table can call Ciliberto at 877-777-1021.
Help is also on the way for the businesses thanks to a concerted effort by the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, the Sullivan Industrial Development Agency and the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.
The latter two agencies have each put up $50,000 in a revolving loan fund for business owners hit by the flood to tap into.
The Chamber, meanwhile, was allowed to set up a booth at the Bethel Woods opening Saturday night to collect tax-deductible donations to the Sullivan County Chamber Foundation.
Those monies will be given to businesses that need immediate relief.
Assistance for just getting their doors open, explained Chamber President Terri Hess.
Checks made out to the Chamber Foundation can be sent to the Chambers office: 59 North Main Street, Liberty, NY 12754.
A booth will also be set up at the Liberty Fourth of July Festival where donations can be made, and both business owners in need and interested donors should call the chamber at 292-8500.
Donations can also be made to the Livingston Manor Community Center/Rockland Relief Fund and sent to P.O. Box 903, Livingston Manor, NY 12758. The donations will be distributed under the direction of the heads of the Livingston Manor Community Center.
Donors who want their funds to go to a specific family or specific cause (such as businesses on Manors Main Street or homeowners on Finch Street) should make a note on their check or on a cover letter.
Donations are also being accepted by the Delaware Youth Center, which was one of the spots hardest hit in Callicoon.
The center has moved its summer youth program to the Hortonville Firemens Pavilion (beginning Wednesday at 9 a.m.) and scrapped the Callicoon Canoe Regatta.
The swimming pool is expected to open for lessons in a week, but the pavilion has been washed away, and the playground is closed.
Donations can be sent to the Delaware Youth Center, P.O. Box 354, Callicoon, NY 12723.
All shelters established during the flood have been closed since Friday something Sullivan County should be proud of, Martinkovic said.
Everyone is now being taken care of by family and friends, he said.
And even with the hardships in the county, both the Liberty and Callicoon fire departments have spent time in the Town of Hancock providing relief while Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff dispatched some of his deputies to aid the Sheriffs Department in Delaware County.
Sullivan County has a big heart, Martinkovic said.
Its important, he said, that people continue to live by the motto of that old AT&T commercial reach out and touch someone.
Complaining about dredging that wasnt done wont help anyone even if it had been done, much of the devastation would have happened, Martinkovic said, because water came from different places this time.
The DEC, he said, is looking the other way as municipalities work to remove debris from the creeks.
Our biggest thing is the amount of debris that needs to be removed, Martinkovic said.
The DEC, he said, is being extremely cooperative.
I believe theyre trying to work without the permit process because its not doable, he said. They know we have an enormous amount of debris.
Grinders may have to be brought in to break down the trees which Martinkovic hopes FEMA will pay for.
Martinkovic praised emergency responders, the dispatchers at the countys 911 center and others in the county for the part theyve played in the response and the part they will play in recovery.
They did a super job for us, Martinkovic said.