FEMA grants Schoharie County millions to recover from Hurricane Irene

SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Lawmakers have lauded the release of federal and state funds totaling $37 million for flood recovery in Schoharie County.

Hurricane Irene devastated the Schoharie County Correctional Facility. It remains empty, and prisoners are being brought to Albany. The sheriff’s office was moved to the second floor.

“Very disruptive because any inmate coming into custody of the sheriff’s office have to be transferred down to Albany County Jail,” Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said. “That’s a 38-mile one way trip. They have to be brought back for court appearances.”

The current facility is also located in a flood plain. Local officials said the cheaper and safer alternative is to build a new jail and public safety complex. The estimated cost is $37 million.

The county has been working with state and federal representatives to push FEMA to provide money to build a new facility.

“There were times where it was frustrating,” Schoharie County Treasurer William Cherry said. “And there were times when this seemed like a tug of war.”

“FEMA resisted,” Senator Charles Schumer said. “They said building a facility out of the flood plain would be more expensive and FEMA’s rules are you should just rebuild what was destroyed.”

After nearly four years, the project was approved.

“I am pleased that FEMA has finally taken this long overdue step to help aid Schoharie County’s recovery from Hurricane Irene,” NY Senator James Seward said. “It is a credit to Congressman Gibson, state and local officials who kept this vital need in the forefront.”

FEMA will cover 75 percent of the cost. The state will pay the rest.

“Schoharie County has worked extremely hard for nearly four years to rebound from the devastating storms and the resilience by all is to be commended,” Seward continued. “Rebuilding the county’s emergency hub is a crucial step that will ensure public safety and save taxpayers money.”

“It means that we’re going to be a sheriff’s office and a correctional facility the way it should be,” Sheriff Desmond said. “The way this was before that flood.”

The new facility is slated to be built off Route 30 on Seebold’s Farm on much higher ground.

The exact location and specifics of the building still need to be worked out, but if all goes according to plan, officials said they could break ground in the spring of 2016.

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