NORTH TONAWANDA – Two very separate events – one a devastating storm that happens once every 150 years and the other a hero bringing his gold medal back to his hometown – were both on the agenda Tuesday for the North Tonawanda Common Council
The Common Council enacted a local law that will provide tax relief for catastrophic flooding and storm damage that happened to homes and businesses between June 20 and Aug. 9, 2013 as part of the New York State Mohawk Valley and Niagara County Assessment Relief Act.
Specifically in North Tonawanda, a severe storm hit the city on July 19 and more than 4,000 residents found themselves without power after 4.3 inches of rain fell on the city in a short time. A number had to deal with flooded basements, while others had to deal with homes or businesses that were destroyed or damaged. These residents and homeowners found themselves responsible for taxes on buildings or businesses that were uninhabitable or unusable.
“We were hoping some type of relief would be coming from New York State,” said City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson. “This will give a taxpayer who was adversely affected, where it affected at least 50 percent of the value of their property, an opportunity to apply to the assessor for tax assessment reduction.”
He said forms and criteria will be in the assessor’s office and must be completed by June 30. County, school and city taxes would be reduced based on the lowered assessment.
Mayor Robert G. Ortt said the July 19 storm was a major thunderstorm which rained 4.3 inches on the city in 2½ hours and was rated as a 150 year storm, meaning a storm like this is projected to happen only once every 150 years.
“That just shows the significance of this storm. It overwhelmed, not just us, but across Niagara County and certainly overwhelmed our system. Fortunately the city had no lasting damage. Most of the issues here were people’s basements and parts of the First Ward had tree damage and power outages, which knocked out our lift stations and that caused those to get flooded, which had a compound effect,” said Ortt.
The Mohawk Valley and Assessment Relief Act, which was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on March 31 and enacted by the State Legislature provides tax relief to residents who were hard hit by last summer’s storms in 10 eligible counties, including Niagara County.
By opting in, the North Tonawanda Common Council recognizes that individuals whose property has been destroyed are entitled to a reduction in the taxable assessed value of their property.
In another matter, the key to the city was presented to Hometown Hero Paul Schaus, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who came back with a gold medal from Sochi, Russia as part of the Team USA Paralympic sled hockey team on March 15.
“I don’t know too many people in North Tonawanda who are gold medalists – in fact I only know one, I know Paul,” said Ortt. “We are extremely proud of him. Not only did he serve our country, but now he is a gold medalist.”
Ortt noted that Schaus, who was in the Marine Corps, lost both his legs after he stepped on a land mine in 2009 while on patrol in Afghanistan at age 24. He said while Schaus was recovering he was introduced to sled hockey and made it his mission to be part of the team.