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North Country benefits from state's additional flood assistance

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Albany/HV: North Country benefits from state's additional flood assistance
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All four North Country counties and many individual towns will receive extra funds to help pay for damages sustained during tropical storms Irene and Lee. Matt Hunter reports.

THURMAN, N.Y. -– The first blow struck Thurman last May when a spring storm tore through, ripping up roads, washing out bridges and flooding out yards.

"It was crazy,” said Kayla Tracey, whose River Road property is adjacent to a bridge that was completely washed away. “I actually saw the road break right here in front of me. This huge, huge wave was coming down. It took everything."

If the $6 million worth of damage from that storm wasn't enough, Thurman went through it again three months later when tropical storms Irene and Lee blindsided the area.

"We had spent most of our reserves repairing the May storms and then [Tropical Storm] Irene came through,” Thurman Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said. “So a lot of that was washed out and taken away."

"It took [away] a lot,” Tracey said. “It was very sad, actually, very, very sad."

Thurman was out of luck when local officials applied for FEMA assistance for the May floods. However, like many other communities in the region, the town did receive funds for the damage sustained during Tropical Storm Irene.

On Wednesday, the small community received yet another boost when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would be providing additional assistance to local governments.

"It's very welcome news, it was a big relief,” Wood said. “I think we're all very, very thankful that we're getting what assistance we can get at this point."

Typically, when the federal government issues disaster assistance, FEMA pays for 75 percent of the total bill, while state and local governments evenly split the remainder. In this case, the state is picking up the tab for local municipalities.

Thurman, which stands to receive roughly $100,000, according to Wood, isn't the only local government in the North Country receiving help. Essex, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties all experienced substantial damage and will get state funds as well.

Out of the four North Country counties, Essex sustained the highest estimated damage total at $14,538,328 and will receive $1,817,291.

Saratoga and Washington counties experienced $4,120,447 and $3,778,212 worth of damage, respectively, and will receive $515,056 and $472,277.

For the estimated $6,075,199 in damage Warren County received, the state will give the county an additional $759,400.

"We had earmarked $1 million of debt that we were going to take on to do this [repair roads],” said Dan Stec, Queensbury Town Supervisor and chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors. “So for starters, it looks like we're going to be able to avoid taking on debt."

While the new funds won't allow towns like Thurman to completely rebuild, local officials and residents are grateful the assistance will get them one step closer.

"Every penny helps at this point," Wood said.

"It's good that we're a close knit community and that everybody knows everybody else, because without that we all would have been lost," Tracey said.

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