By Andy Simek
LIVINGSTON MANOR July 11, 2006 With the floodwaters recession, Town of Rockland officials are now attempting to pick up the pieces and start anew.
The town board held its first meeting after the flooding Thursday in the Livingston Manor town hall.
The meeting was attended by a standing-room-only crowd, many of whom had been affected by the flood.
Two families left homeless by last weeks disaster were in attendance, one of which had just been moved out of the hotel they were occupying as a temporary residence.
Town of Rockland Supervisor Pat Pomeroy promised to meet with these families personally afterwards to discuss some options and to attempt to find them temporary housing.
Several other individuals in attendance were concerned with dredging local streams.
These people had claimed that the surrounding townships had commenced dredging their streams and were anxious to see the Town of Rockland do the same.
The issue was resolved when Pomeroy explained that what they witnessed was simply gravel removal, which will facilitate stream flow, and that the DEC will likely not be authorizing any dredging.
She also explained that the Town of Rockland has indeed started the gravel removal process.
The main focus of Thursdays meeting was to discuss the state of the Town of Rockland and to assess the damage done by the flood.
Overall, the town had 194 homes with some sort of water damage, 38 having moderate to severe damage, said Pomeroy.
The flood of 2006 left 19 families in the Town of Rockland without a home to go back to, due to either condemnation by the town or from damage so severe that the house came apart.
Town officials said that the evacuation process went smoothly but, in their opinions, not smoothly enough.
One of the biggest problems, they said, were the people who refused to leave their houses and who later had to be rescued.
We cant take unnecessary risks with the lives of the firefighters and town officials who had to go back and rescue these people, said Pomeroy.
Starting around 4:30 a.m. on the first night of the heavy rains, firefighters equipped with bullhorns rode through the towns of Roscoe and Livingston Manor warning people to evacuate. The process was successful as a whole, despite the more stubborn individuals, said Pomeroy.
A plan will have to be formulated to increase cooperation in case of another disaster, officials said.
The Roscoe School evacuation site worked out very well and housed comfortably all those who were able to make it there, said Pomeroy.
The Livingston Manor School, however, will not be used again for an evacuation site, according to officials, due to the flooding that arrived after people had already been moved there.
Another evacuation site will be chosen at a later date.
Town of Rockland code enforcement was said to have done an excellent job, with the help of neighboring counties, to check houses in an efficient and timely fashion.
All residents with water damage are warned to replace, if necessary, any plasterboard or other materials that may harbor mold or other potentially harmful allergens.
According to Code Enforcement Officer Lee Stackhouse, approximately 155 of the houses with damage are repairable.
State of Emergency
Pomeroy officially lifted the state of emergency from the Town of Rockland that Thursday, with the exception of four roads which are still under reconstruction: Elm Hollow, Tuttle Hill, Grooville and Shin Creek.
It was also brought to the attention of the board that Beaver Lake Road is extremely treacherous and should be avoided by anyone who doesnt need to travel on it.
The board said that by June 28, the United Way was in the Town of Rockland to donate money, clothing and to help find and pay for hotels for displaced families.
The Red Cross came in on the following Friday to help with the approximately 40 families which were staying in the Livingston Manor School, which is the current site for all disaster relief, whether it be from the Red Cross, the United Way or state and federal government.
The clean-up initiative has started already, thanks to local prisoners.
In the first two days of the project, only 13 loads of debris were removed, filling two large garbage containers.
This is, according to both the prisoners and the assisting construction crews, not enough.
Officials advised that more containers should be brought to the clean-up sites at once, or that the garbage simply should be piled in a temporary place so as to speed up the process which, at its current rate, is estimated to take two or more weeks to complete.
The DEC was present at the meeting and is going to be giving the Town of Rockland full authority over burning permits once a final draft of the papers is agreed upon by both parties.
As it stands now, the permits would allow all brush and plant materials to be burned while prohibiting burning garbage such as paper products, plastics or oil byproducts.
Finally, the board discussed an initiative by Governor Pataki called NYS AID, intended to help the region with its flood relief.
Around $135 million is being set aside through the program. Up to $5,000 per individual or small business owner will be made available.
The initiative would also cover the cost of municipal repairs that FEMA doesnt cover, taking a huge burden off taxpayers in the months to come.
The board also discussed the need for residents to obtain a processing number from FEMA before being able to apply online for aid.
For more information or to apply for NYS AID, call 888-769-7243.
For information and for aid from FEMA, call 800-621-3362.