ELIZABETHTOWN -Supervisors in Essex County have their fingers crossed, hoping that President Barack Obama will declare the region a disaster area.
"I have had three conversations with Congressman Bill Owens, and he is really pushing for us," County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas said at the May 2 board meeting. "This does have a great shot to get a federal declaration. The preliminary numbers show that there could be $10 to $12 million in damages in Essex County."
Douglas said that he has stayed in contact with Gov. Andrew Cuomo since he visited the town of Moriah April 29.
"We gave the governor a preliminary package at that time," Douglas said. "Our situation is on their radar, and their communication with me was, 'Forget about the red tape and we will do whatever we can to help these communities out.'"
Douglas said that the governor and federal representatives would continue to monitor the situation. If the county reaches the $25 million plateau in terms of damages, then the area could be declared a federal emergency zone.
Several supervisors talked about the damages they have seen in their communities.
"We are losing a road at Port Douglas," Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said. "There are things in our community that are now just showing up, so I am sure that the number needed for funding is going to rise."
"We are still looking at numbers, but we are approaching $500,000 in damages," Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said. "We are looking at $200,000 to $400,000 for just one road."
"We have farms that have lost their bridges and this is a prime season for them," Keene Supervisor William Ferebee said. "They can't move."
"We have been going all over with the roads that have been washed out and closed," Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said. "There is going to be more coming to the surface as far as damages as time goes by."
"We are keeping track of everything and hopefully, we can get some help," Schroon Supervisor Cathy Moses said.
"We do have some damage in the area that is related to what is going on in the village of Saranac Lake," St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency said. "There has been a breach at our sewer plant that brought a declaration from the state Department of Health."
Currently, the county has authorized the use of up to $2.5 million from unappropriated fund balance to deal with repairs and reconstruction work, which it is hopeful to repay through federal funding. While several supervisors brought up areas where private property has been damaged, county Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said that the infrastructure needed to be addressed first in order to obtain federal funding.
"It's hard to tell private homeowners that we can't do anything right now, but that is the way that it is at the moment," Jaquish said. "What each homeowner needs to do is take pictures and keep track of all the expenses and losses that they have."
Jaquish also gave county leaders places to look for further damages.
"Be sure to look at your parks and your beaches because they are all part of the public infrastructure," Jaquish said.