By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL
OBSERVER Staff Writer
GOWANDA - It has been three years and the village of Gowanda is still waiting for money.
The flood in 2009 left Gowanda with severe damage, including destruction of Tri-County Memorial Hospital. Due to the extensive damage, the village of Gowanda had to spend $1 million in repair costs.
"After the flood in 2009, as the village of Gowanda worked towards restoring its infrastructure, we received immediate help and assistance from local, county, state and federal agencies," Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was to reimburse the village for these costs up to 75 percent which would equal $750,000. FEMA has yet to pay the full amount, causing the village to have to bear the financial burden.
"The issue that we now struggle with continues to be that even though Gowanda has been made whole physically, the village needs to be restored financially," McKeever said.
"Gowanda is a small community and its residents continue to bare the burden of the interest payments on the money borrowed to complete the approved FEMA projects."
Sen. Charles Schumer is urging top officials at the FEMA. The amount the village has had to pay back is approximately $200,000 in interest payments, according to McKeever. Schumer believes the burden put on the village is "unacceptable."
"After nearly three years, it is absolutely unacceptable that the (village) of Gowanda is forced to bear the brunt of repair costs from the 2009 storm," Schumer said in a statement. "... Local residents and taxpayers deserve better, and it's clear we need the full support of the federal government to help get things back on track."
Currently, Gowanda has three outstanding project worksheets for repairs in connection to the storm. These documents outline the scope of work required for repairs. These documents are used to reimburse municipalities by FEMA. The outstanding ones from Gowanda have been in processing at a joint field office, according to Schumer.
"I am encouraged by the continued and critical support from Senator Schumer and our local and state officials urging FEMA to fund the approved projects that have been completed and paid for by borrowed money," McKeever said. "The village continues to work closely with FEMA and as this remains a top priority we will be persistent until each FEMA project is fully funded."
This is not the first attempt by Schumer calling on FEMA. Schumer previously wrote a letter in March calling on FEMA to reimburse the remaining funding balance and placed a personal phone call to FEMA in an effort to gain the necessary approvals for the funding.
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