November 20, 2013 —
Widespread northeastern hurricane damage last fall led to a grant opportunity for town officials to finally relocate a historically flood-prone town facility, but actually getting to the money turned out to be like snagging an elusive brass ring.
Hurricane Sandy prompted a wide-scale federal emergency declaration, which included Sullivan County and led to the funding of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants, to be administered by the state’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM).
Earlier this fall, Highland officials learned of the availability of a $1 billion in state-federal money to lessen the impacts of future damage—so called Hazard Mitigation Grants.
They decided to try for funds to relocate the town highway garage, which borders the Halfway Brook in Eldred and was damaged in and rebuilt after the area’s flood of record in 1955. There has been a plan in the works to move it to a town-owned site behind the senior citizen center on Route 55 for some 11 years, but the money has never been available.
So, with word of the Sandy grants available, Supervisor Andrew Boyar learned that Highland was eligible and, at the urging of Councilman Scott Hallock, town officials met with an OEM representative in mid-October. They learned that applications were due by October 30—but applications were not yet available, Boyar told a town board meeting audience on November 12. However, they would have the advice of a state grant technician to help them, they were told.
Town officials and volunteers began the preliminaries and quickly found that the data entry program for the grant was not user-friendly; and the state specialist was never available—a problem that would continue throughout the process, Boyar said.
Grant writers were contracted to expedite the work. They too had their problems with the process. The application was first deemed incomplete, as a score of exhibits sent as a single attachment were misidentified by the program as a single exhibit.
“The grant writers persisted. No one quit,” Boyar said. Everything had to be sent in again, as separate attachments this time.
The preparations went on for two full days, from 8:30 a.m. till late at night, “[The grant writers] were great. We never would have gotten it done without them,” Boyar said.
The application was finally filed and accepted on October 28, two days ahead of the deadline.
“On the day after, we finally heard from the state technician,” Boyar said.
Some 2,000 municipalities are eligible for the funding, and the successful filing does not guarantee funding. If successful, the grant would provide 75%, $1,050,000, of the $1.4 million project.
In a related move, after massaging its language to accommodate emergency management bureaucracy, the town board approved an updated local emergency/hazard mitigation plan, which had to be in place for grant eligibility.
In an unrelated grant action, the board authorized an application for a $50,000 state grant through state Sen. John Bonacic, to plan and develop a community park on town-owned property on River Road in Barryville.