From the Desk of Mayor Kevin Millar
It has been over two years since the flood of September 2011 that changed our lives in the Village of Owego and I want to update residents on flood recovery activity. I know many residents were anxious watching the river rise over the July 4 weekend. Village residents and officials are involved in several planning efforts. I know that planning is not direct action, but without a solid plan and studies we cannot get the money to do any mitigation projects.
One study being done in conjunction with the Tioga County IDA and the Owego Apalachin School District is a hydrologic study of Huntington Creek (a.k.a. Monkey Run) which has overflowed into the school complex and the Flats in 2006 and 2011. Community residents and officials are also working on a Long Term Community Recovery Plan (LTCRP) that was funded by the New York State Department of State (NYS DOS) and enabled the village to contract with ELAN Planning and Design to plan specific recovery and mitigation projects that have a good chance of being funded. Since ELAN was doing the basic fact finding and data collection for the LTCRP, the village took the opportunity of have them assist the village planning board to review and revise the village’s ten year old comprehensive plan. That plan will incorporate recent flooding, our hazard mitigation plan and mitigation of the impact of heavy industry if gas drilling is allowed in New York State.
Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new initiative called the NY Rising, Community Reconstruction Plan. This plan is led by the NYS DOS and has up to three million dollars allocated for the Village of Owego if suitable projects are developed and submitted. Our planning work on the LTCRP has put us ahead of the curve on this and will be very useful in having shovel ready projects that can mitigate flood damage.
FEMA Public Assistance funds to repair municipal infrastructure has been moving along with some areas, Marvin Park for example, 100 percent completed. Work on the Police Department Office at 90 Temple St. is 65 percent completed. We are appealing a denial by FEMA for funds to fully repair the Central Fire Station. It was denied because the village did not obtain flood insurance on it after getting FEMA funds to repair it in 2006.
We recently received notification that we can apply for grants to mitigate flood hazard at Central Fire Station, for stream gauges and for generators for backup power at all municipal buildings.
The Village of Owego is continuing to apply for grants for Hazard Mitigation from the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYS OEM) in hopes of funding even more mitigation projects.
On buyouts, we are waiting for a contract from the NYS OEM that will allow residents seeking a buyout to be based on 100 percent of the pre-flood appraised value rather than the 75 percent originally expected. Unfortunately, this has led to a delay in sending out letters that will offer a dollar amount to residents.
On elevations of flooded homes, we are waiting for FEMA to approve that project. We got received a request last week for more house photos, so that is a sign that they are continuing to work on that application for the elevation of 27 homes.
We recently lost two large beech trees that were over 150 years old in the village, in addition to other old trees due to wind, rain and flood. The Village needs to supplement our aging trees with younger ones. Trustee Ceccherelli applied for and was awarded a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) grant to plant 50 trees in the village. Residents were notified of the project and could request a tree in front of their home. Trees add value to homes and provide shade, but perhaps most importantly they absorb water and lower the water table.
We are applying for a CDBG Grant to look at our storm water drainage system and installation of a storm drainage system that will eliminate the ponds that form in the street in several areas of the village after a heavy rain.
The Village is working with Johnson Controls to audit energy use and assess whether a performance energy contact would save the village money. The goal is to reduce energy consumption in the village and reduce the cost to residents, as well as look at possible use of renewable energy.
As fall approaches, the annual ritual of leaf removal by residents will be made easier, more efficient and less costly to village residents. The Village Board recently voted to purchase a leaf vacuum/shredder which will mean no more bagging of leaves and no more bags purchased by the village. This process will save a lot of time and work since the leaves will no longer be shipped out of the village, but will be gathered and transported to a compost pile in the village. The leaf vacuum/shredder will be purchased with a NYS DEC grant obtained by Trustee Ceccherelli. There will be a demonstration next month of that machine and what residents need to do with their leaves.
The Village will begin leaf pickup with the new leaf vacuum/shredder on Oct 21. Leaves should be placed on the berm (between sidewalk and street), not in the street. There should be no sticks, stones or trash mixed in with the leaves. Leaf pickup will be cancelled in the event of rain. A schedule by streets will be made and published. On street parking can help the efficiency of leaf removal by parking on the odd numbered side of the street on odd days and the even side of the street on even days.
The village has also been working on updating operations in the Clerk’s Office. We have entered into a contract with Pyramid Business Systems to manage, streamline and update the village’s information technology (IT) functioning. Pyramid has been managing IT at the Owego Police Department and will now manage the village office and later manage IT software and hardware at the Department of Public Works and the Owego Fire Department.
NYS DOT is working on the road under the railroad underpass to make it lower to help keep trucks from hitting the railroad bridge. Over time road construction has decreased the clearance through the underpass. DOT is also looking at a way to remove southbound truck traffic from lower North Avenue and make the North Avenue and Main Street intersection safer.
There has been a recent rash of petty larcenies and several suspects have been apprehended with the help of alert residents calling in information. I encourage you to lock your car doors, house doors and report all suspicious activity promptly to the Owego Police Department by calling 687-2234.
The NYS Small Business Storm Recovery Program still has loans and grants available to help independently owned and operated businesses recover from Tropical Storm Lee. To apply you can call 1-855-NYS-SANDY or go to www.Stormrecovery.ny.gov.
Any questions about this program, flood recovery or anything related to the Village of Owego, please call Mayor Kevin Millar at 687-3263.