Washington, D.C. – At U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand’s urging, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded the Owego Apalachin Central School District with funding to relocate the administration building and maintenance and storage facilities that were severely damaged during Tropical Storm Lee. There were several issues over whether funding would be used to repair the facilities in their current locations or rebuild new facilities outside of the floodplain. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have been working with FEMA in support of the school district’s application to rebuild these facilities outside of the floodplain. In March of 2014, with the support of both Senators, FEMA attended a meeting to discuss the project and review the proposal. In separate letters to FEMA, Schumer and Gillibrand urged the relocation of damaged school facilities away from the flood plain. In November, Schumer again petitioned Administrator Fugate to support the facilities relocation under the 428 procedure, which authorizes alternative procedures for debris removal and repair, restoration, and replacement of disaster-damaged public and private nonprofit facilities under the Public Assistance (PA) program, giving applicants more flexibility to complete their project.
“I am pleased that FEMA has stepped up to the plate and finally awarded the Owego Apalachin Central School District the funding its needs to relocate and rebuild facilities that were severely damaged in Tropical Storm Lee. These long-awaited federal funds will now allow the school district to provide a better, safer learning environment for students, teachers, and administrators without pushing the financial burden to local taxpayers,” said Senator Schumer. “After disaster strikes, it is the federal government’s obligation to help local communities repair and rebuild local infrastructure, and I have worked over the past two years to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that was holding up this process. Now we have the funding this district needs to get back on its feet.”
“This is great news for the Owego Apalachin Central School District, and long overdue” said Senator Gillibrand. “Tropical Storm Lee devastated communities throughout New York and Tioga County was hit hard. Homes, schools and businesses suffered unprecedented damage and were left in dire need of repair. This is an important investment for the community that will allow the school district to rebuild two new facilities outside the floodplain, preventing further devastation from future flooding. After district staff worked over two years to provide the appropriate documentation, I am pleased FEMA has finally taken action and has recognized the importance of relocating the school district’s facilities outside of flood prone areas.”
“This new funding agreement will allow us to build new administration and maintenance/storage facilities on locations outside the floodplain,” said Dr. William Russell, Owego Apalachin Superintendent of Schools. “We have been engaged in a long, often frustrating negotiation with FEMA for nearly two years over this issue. It’s very gratifying that, following intervention at the very highest level of FEMA, we were able to reach a satisfactory conclusion that will provide full funding for our new buildings. We are especially grateful for the continued support and intervention from our two U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. They have been strong advocates for our full recovery from the first weeks after the flood disaster.”
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to secure the funds necessary to allow the Owego Apalachin Central School District to rebuild after Tropical Storm Lee. In letters sent in January and March 2014, Senator Gillibrand wrote to FEMA Region II Administrator Jerome Hatfield, urging FEMA to quickly resolve the request by the school district to relocate its administration building and storage facility outside of the floodplain, which led to meetings between the District, FEMA, New York State and other stakeholders that ultimately resulted in FEMA granting the request. In April 2012, Schumer called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to step up to the plate and improve its lackluster recovery efforts in Tioga County from Tropical Storm Lee. Schumer said the County’s rebuilding plans had met delays and roadblocks at the hands of FEMA. In May 2012, Schumer hosted a meeting in his Washington D.C. office with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in order to ensure that FEMA stepped up to the plate and improved its inconsistent recovery efforts in Tioga and Broome Counties from Tropical Storm Lee. In the meeting, Schumer highlighted that the Southern Tier communities’ rebuilding plans had met delays and roadblocks at the hands of FEMA, including buildings throughout the Owego Apalachin School District. In June 2012, Schumer announced that, after his urging, FEMA made plans to fund the replacement of the flood-ridden Owego Apalachin School District facilities, including the elementary school, with built-in mitigation efforts.
The Owego Apalachin Central School District’s facilities were severely damaged after Tropical Storm Lee, leaving half of the district’s school buildings and facilities beyond repair. The funding awarded today by FEMA is an additional award for the school district that will allow it to relocate its administration building and storage facility. The school district previously received a FEMA award to replace the Owego Elementary School. Today’s award is an important resource as the district works toward final stages of recovery from Tropical Storm Lee.
Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on Tioga County and its public facilities in September 2011, causing severe damage to public infrastructure and creating over 300 public assistance projects costing a total of over $30 million. The Owego Apalachin School district was particularly damaged, with five of its seven buildings badly damaged, and four rendered uninhabitable, including the Owego Elementary School and the District’s administration building. The high school, middle school and athletic complex and fields also suffered major damage.
The full text of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s most recent letters are attached.