The Putnam County Executive’s Office, Bureau of Emergency Services, Department of Public Works and many other county employees have been working around the clock the past few weeks to assist in recovery efforts, as well as assess damage to infrastructure following severe flooding from recent storms.
In cooperation with the New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, the county is collaborating with towns and villages on a preliminary damage assessment to facilitate the formal disaster declaration and relief process through the federal government.
During the County Legislature’s July 18 Physical Services Committee meeting, the expenditure of $1 million was approved to address the damage, which is expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The expenditure will now be voted on by the full Legislature at its August meeting.
Thomas Feighery, administrative director of the Putnam County DPW, explained that the west side of the county was hit especially hard during the first storm in early July.
“We still don’t know the extent of the damage because there’s still an awful lot of volume in the culvers and waterways,” he said. “With back-to-back storms like this, we need that kind of money just to get started, because we don’t have the manpower; we don’t have the machinery to do all these different places that got hit at once. We can plan projects and fill the need for projects, but we had seven road closures, just for the county, and every single one of them had severe damage.”
To assist in the recovery effort, the county has retained a consultant, Meridian Strategic Services, that specializes in emergency management and recovery. Meridian is working directly with the county in maximizing potential reimbursement from FEMA for damages caused by storms and flooding.
Last week, Byrne and BES Commissioner Robert Lipon also arranged for representatives from Meridian to give a presentation and overview to interested supervisors and mayors from Putnam’s towns and villages.
“Keeping residents safe and getting our infrastructure back up and running is our main priority, and we’re accomplishing many of those immediate goals,” said Byrne. “Now we need to refocus on recouping our loses. FEMA can only offer aid to our community if we meet certain criteria. We know Putnam County has exceeded the damage threshold, but now we need to ensure the governor’s team has what it needs for Gov. Hochul to make a formal request for a disaster declaration from President Biden, and then for the president to officially issue a disaster declaration that includes Putnam County.”
The New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services has communicated that FEMA representatives could be visiting Putnam County for a preliminary damage assessment as soon as last week. If the president approves a disaster declaration, local governments can become eligible for reimbursement through the public assistance program.
With that declaration, FEMA may also make individual assistance available to residents.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident in the team we’ve set up,” said Lipton. “We’re working well together, we continue to respond to residents’ and local governments’ needs, and we’ve set up a system to track and report damage for New York State and FEMA.”
“Collaboration in the wake of this storm is key, and I’m happy to report that our partners at all levels of government have been responsive thus far,” added Byrne, who expressed his gratitude to the dedicated first responders, DPW crews, county employees at BES and volunteers who have been working to address the needs of the most affected areas.
Additional storm response and recovery resources can be found at www.putnamcountyny.com/pcbes. For inquiries regarding road closures and property damage, it is also appropriate to call 211 to access the United Way’s 211 Helpline. Residents can also visit 511ny.org for more info about state road closures.