09/16/14 10:00am
09/16/2014 10:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Manorville firefighters work to dampen the property of Island Steel and Detaining Corp., as steel mill in Manorville, as flames burn to the north.

Manorville firefighters work to dampen the property of Island Steel and Detaining Corp. in 2012. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Manorville firefighters will soon be able to refill their air tanks faster, thanks to a $57,000 federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop announced last week that the Manorville Fire District has won federal funding through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus fill stations. (more…)

12/30/13 11:30am
12/30/2013 11:30 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | A gazebo along the Peconic Riverfront went for a ride during Hurricane Sandy Monday.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A gazebo along the Peconic Riverfront went for a ride during Hurricane Sandy.

As part of an effort to remain eligible for federal emergency mitigation funding, the county is asking residents to fill out a survey which explores locals’ knowledge of natural disaster issues.

The Suffolk County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee is offering the 21-question survey, the results of which will be used to “coordinate activities to reduce the risk of injury or property damage in the future.”

Funding available in part from offering the survey, according to Southold Town’s website, will be used for beach re-nourishment, elevating structures, and offering backup power for schools and critical facilities.

Complete the survey here.

10/29/13 7:00am
10/29/2013 7:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The gazebo by the Peconic River flipped over in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The gazebo by the Peconic River flipped over in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Nearly a year after superstorm Sandy swept across the North Fork, knocking down trees, taking out power lines and flooding downtown Riverhead under several feet of storm surge, Riverhead Town is still waiting on about $750,000 in federal reimbursement funds it requested to cover related repair costs.

“We have received money, but not the lion’s share,” said Police Chief David Hegermiller, the town’s liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Chief Hegermiller said the town applied for more than $1 million in funding from FEMA to pay for repairs and minor improvements to mitigate future storm damage. But as of last week, the town has received only about 25 percent of those reimbursement funds.

Related: Timeline breaks down Sandy’s arrival to the Riverhead area

Until a couple of months ago, he said, the town hadn’t received any funding from FEMA.

Chief Hegermiller believes the sheer amount of damage caused by Sandy across the U.S. is partially to blame for the delay in getting FEMA funding approval.

“This was just a major storm,” he said. “The paperwork is just drowning them.”

The complexity of the FEMA funding approval process may also be contributing to the delay. Municipalities that apply for FEMA relief don’t receive the funds directly from FEMA, but through the New York State Office of Emergency Management — to which FEMA gives the money. Applicants have to file project worksheets — detailed folders describing the exact cost and reason for the request — with state officials, who review the project worksheets themselves before sending them on to FEMA for a second review.

Click here to read our past Superstorm Sandy coverage.

Often, the state will return a worksheet asking for clarifications.

“I don’t want to tell you how many times I went down to Iron Pier to look at the concrete that was out of kilter,” Chief Hegermiller said. “All that stuff takes time.”

The town has completed most of the 20 project worksheets it plans to fi le with FEMA. Consultants from the state are now working in the police department basement to review the final worksheets for approval, town offi cials said.    “We’re not the only ones in this position,” said town fi nancial administrator Bill Rothaar.

Most of the money used during Sandy cleanup came from budget lines set up for employee overtime and contingencies, meaning no money was taken from the general fund in 2012, he said.

But “a couple” of Sandy-related problems that cropped up this year had to be paid for using general funds because FEMA approval was taking too long, Mr. Rothaar said.

“We weren’t getting approvals and the board was making decisions that this needed to be done,” he said.

The delays, in turn, have also slowed down other town functions and departments. The town’s audit, for example, could have been fi nished about a month earlier had the FEMA funding been in the town’s coffers.

The town has also applied for several state hazard mitigation project grants to help bolster the its defenses against future disasters, Chief Hegermiller said.

One of those applications would secure $6.5 million to prevent storm-water from getting into the town’s sewer system, while another roughly $8.5 million proposal would move the sewer district’s Defriest pump station downtown to elevate it out of the fl ood plain, he said.

Another proposal asks for $350,000 to pay for a new generator. But Chief Hegermiller thinks the grants will become “very competitive.” Only $200 million has been made available for the mitigation grants across the entire state.

“This isn’t a slam dunk,” he said. “There’s a lot of hurdles to go through.”

Meanwhile, town officials say that a plan to install a series of plastic walls to prevent storm surges from flooding downtown is still in the planning phases.

A Utah-based company presented the “Muscle Wall” to Town Board members in April. The 6-by-4-foot sections of plastic wall would be placed together to keep floodwaters from reaching downtown’s businesses, as occurred during Sandy.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the town will seek federal and county grant money to pay for the walls.

“We don’t have any money to buy it right now but I was hoping to use the hazard mitigation money FEMA and the county were putting on the table,” Ms. Giglio said.

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07/13/13 8:00am
07/13/2013 8:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | An excavator clears debris during demolitions on Horton Avenue last fall.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | An excavator clears debris during Horton Avenue demolitions last fall.

A plan for Riverhead Town to use federal grant money to install flood-prevention measures on Horton Avenue has stalled after a new engineering report forced the price of the project to jump nearly five times higher.

Now town officials say unless they can secure more grant funding, the drainage plan is dead in the water.

“I think the [Town] Board is not going to be able to go forward with the second phase,” said Supervisor Sean Walter. “The money just isn’t there. We can’t print money like the federal government.”

The original proposal for $600,000 worth of drainage installation was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through a reimbursement grant in October 2011, more than a year after torrential rains flooded Horton Avenue, forcing out more than a dozen families whose homes were damaged by the waters.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A plan to prevent this section of Horton Avenue from flooding has been put on hold, town officials said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A plan to prevent this section of Horton Avenue from flooding has been put on hold.

But a new report discovered by the town’s engineering department has revealed that the amount of land that drains into the Horton Avenue area is nearly double what was originally estimated. That drove the price up to $2.9 million, town officials said.

Town engineer Drew Dillingham said a report filed by a consulting firm in 1979 shows the acreage that feeds into the watershed was “significantly higher” than the 700 acres he originally estimated.

Mr. Dillingham checked the area again and found that the acreage was closer to 1,200.

“Everything ends up there, or in the vicinity,” he said. “What that means is, you’ve got a lot more water coming to your design than you initially anticipated.”

Mr. Dillingham said he was rushed on the initial study because of tight FEMA deadlines.

“This was a slam-together, fast-estimate job,” he said. “Everything was in crisis mode.”

The original plan called for shallow channels called swales to be dug north of Reeves Avenue in a farm field, he said. But because about twice as much water flows into the area near Horton Avenue, the new design calls for moving the swales by clearing a wooded area east of Horton Avenue and replacing it with sand trenches, digging out a nearby dry pond seven feet down to groundwater and creating a man-made wetland that would catch the rainwater.

Out of the $2.9 million cost of the new project, about $2.3 million would pay for labor to remove the wooded area, with the remaining $600,000 set aside for materials and plantings, Mr. Dillingham said.

Mr. Dillingham said that because the town was forced to update the plan and increase the price, FEMA would now demand the town put more of its own money into the project.

He said Police Chief David Hegermiller, who is the town’s FEMA liaison, is trying to find other ways to fund the project.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | It took more than a week for flood waters on Horton Avenue to subside last spring. About a dozen houses were ruined.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | It took more than a week for flood waters on Horton Avenue to subside after the 2010 storm. About a dozen houses were ruined.

“We are in fact looking at other grants to get this done,” he said, adding that Chief Hegermiller is also considering building a sump in the area, a cheaper alternative to the current $2.9 million proposal. Mr. Dillingham said the sump would provide more “more bang for your buck,” but he was unsure if FEMA places restrictions on what type of solutions the town could use for that area.

The man-made wetlands management project was part of a larger $3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that let the town buy back homes from the flood victims at pre-flood values and demolish the houses.

Though the wetlands project has stalled and may be abandoned, Mr. Walter said the primary goal of the project was to get residents out of the potential flood zone.

“We moved the people out of harms way,” he said. “At this point, if it were to flood, no houses would be underwater.”

Former Horton Avenue resident Linda Hobson, who became an advocate for the flood victims after the 2010 storm and worked with politicians to get the grant approved, said she’s concerned by the way the street looks now that the homes have been demolished.

“There are still residents living up there and I’m not sure they’re going to want to live there, with what it looks like right now,” she said. “You dug out some houses and it looks like a big void.”

But she said that she is “very content” with the outcome for her and her fellow flood victims, one of whom recently closed on a new house in Center Moriches paid for by the funds she received by selling her damaged house back to the town.

“I am elated that it’s over and that I’m getting my life back together … The most important part of it was done, and that was the part that concerned people and housing,” Ms. Hobson said. “We’ll just have to move on from here.”

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