Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 18, 2013

City works on aid plan

BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

A team consisting of city officials and residents will be putting together a plan regarding flood aid for private property owners who suffered losses from the June 28 storm that swamped parts of the city.

And once that plan is ready, the state will come to Lockport to assess each individual case, said Mayor Michael W. Tucker. Tucker was in Albany on Thursday for a conference concerning aid for homeowners affected by the June 28 flooding.

So, the city will continue to collect all the information it can from property owners, Tucker said. Homeowners should document and itemize all flood-related damages, then have those documents notarized. They should then turn those documents in to city hall.

Homeowners should be aware that the state will thoroughly check everything, Tucker said.

"Albany will come in and do an assessment for each," he said. "When they're giving tax dollars they want to make sure it's justified."

Tucker said the process could take up to eight months, but there's a chance Niagara County could receive money in a much shorter time period. 

Most of Thursday's conference was geared toward the Mohawk Valley, where the counties of Herkimer, Montgomery and Oneida saw heavy flooding in late June and early July.

"It was utter devastation there," Tucker said. "A lot of homes were lost."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the state will provide $16 million to homeowners, business operators and farmers in five flood-stricken upstate counties that were declared disaster areas after late June rains but were denied federal aid.

Niagara County is to receive $2 million. Herkimer and Montgomery counties will get $4 million each and Madison and Oneida counties will be given $3 million each.

It's unknown how much Lockport would receive of the $2 million, but it stands to reason the city would receive the majority. Tucker estimated that 98 percent of the damage in Niagara County occurred in the city.

"Other areas were affected, but most of it was in the city," he said.

Hundreds of property owners in the city needed their basements pumped out after five inches of rain fell in a few hours and strained the city’s sanitary-stormwater sewer system past capacity. An estimated 600 basements were pumped out.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected private loss claims, but has agreed to reimburse only municipalities for their flooding-related property losses and cleanup costs.

City officials originally wanted residents to file flood damage-related notices of claim against the city. But now, officials want homeowners to just document losses and not file claims, as the city's annual insurance premium is based in part on the number of notices filed against it.

It'll be some work, but Lockport homeowners who suffered significant flood damage should receive some help from the state.

"At the end of the day, homeowners should see some relief," Tucker said.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.