LOCKPORT – There doesn’t seem to be much chance of federal aid to Lockport property owners, or to the city itself, for damage caused by the June 28 flash flood, Mayor Michael W. Tucker told the Common Council on Wednesday.
Tucker said the total of reimbursable damage apparently will not reach the statewide threshold of $26 million that the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires for compensation to be paid.
“If FEMA doesn’t get engaged, nothing’s going to happen here or anyplace else,” Tucker said after visits Wednesday from residential assessment teams from FEMA and the Small Business Administration.
Most of the damage in Lockport was in basements. Despite statements by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., on a visit to Lockport last week, FEMA seems unwilling to pay for damage to the contents of basements. “FEMA made it quite clear that when it comes to damage assessment and damage reimbursement, basements don’t enter into the equation,” the mayor said.
The city had a list of about 30 homes whose owners have filed notices of claim with the city. That’s about 5 percent of the number of homes whose basements were pumped out. “They consider hot water tanks and furnaces as real estate,” Tucker said.
The SBA offers low-interest loans, not grants. Tucker took the SBA representatives to Widewaters Drive-In, Metal Cladding, the YWCA of Niagara and the American Legion.
The apparent unavailability of federal aid means the city would be on its own to pay the cost of repairing streets and the sewage-treatment plant, about $800,000 all told.
Although city residents have 90 days to file claims at City Hall that the city’s insurance company likely won’t pay, Tucker said, “I don’t think FEMA is coming back.”
That means private insurance, which typically doesn’t cover floods, is the only hope of compensation.
The mayor said that some insurance companies are paying claims, while others are “playing games,” as Tucker put it.
Those insurers are saying they would pay for a backed-up sewer, but not a flood. Tucker said he called State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and asked him to call the state Insurance Department and get that agency to lean on the insurers.
“The senator said he was going to make that call, and some of those insurance companies might have a different opinion once they get that call from Albany,” Tucker said.
Meanwhile, Tucker announced that the city will end its flood-related garbage amnesty program after Friday. The city has been allowing unlimited trash disposal since the flood, but as of Monday, the city will go back to collecting only what is in the totes, with a $10 tag charge for a large item.