FEMA admits jail damage $13 million


By David Avitabile

As FEMA inches toward a finalization on funding for the flood-ravaged jail, federal officials have finally admitted that the damage to the facility was closer to $13 million and not the initial $1.9 million estimates.
FEMA officials continued to deliberate on the jail project and will eventually decide on whether to fund rebuilding the public safety facility, with flood proofing, in its present location on Depot Lane in Schoharie or construct a new facility in another location, according to county Treasurer Bill Cherry, who is coordinating the flood recovery for the county.
The estimate on rebuilding the facility, which would include the EMO and E-911 center, will probably be about $18 million. The estimate on a new facility would likely be around $31 million.
While they debate where to place the funds, officials have conceded a major point and have agreed, in writing, that rebuilding the jail would cost at least $13 million. It is almost certain, Mr. Cherry told supervisors last month, that FEMA will agree to an additional $7 million in "soft costs" which would include studies and other work.
It is likely, Mr. Cherry added, that when they get all the estimates, that FEMA officials will agree to fund rebuilding the public safety facility as it was.
This is not the best choice, he argued.
"There's no way we're rebuilding it the way it was," stressing that the EMO and E-911 centers have to be in another location.
"It does not make sense to have the EMO and E-911 in the same location."
If FEMA officials make that determination, the county will file an appeal and ask for a new location.
The EMO, E-911 and Sheriff's office should at least be in a new location out of the flood plain, Mr. Cherry said. The jail itself could also be included but he "could live with" a new location for the first three.
The county must have a location to allow for a continuation of service, communication and government, Mr. Cherry added.
Though the jail would be evacuated in case of a future flood, as it was in August 2011, Dan Singletary of Jefferson said the county should push for a new spot for the jail.
He suggested writing a letter stating that it would be immoral to rebuild the jail in a floodplain.
Mr. Cherry responded that it is too early to write a letter.