Continuing recovery in Schoharie Valley
By Jennifer Patterson
March 19, 2013
Living in suburban Rotterdam for the past 18 months has been somewhat of a culture shock for Bill Wetsel, a self-professed country boy at heart.
Wetsel, his wife, Amy, and teenage sons Austin and Zachary were forced to leave their home of more than 15 years on Middlefort Road in Middleburgh after Tropical Storm Irene tore through the Schoharie Valley in August 2011.
The Wetsel family lost everything in the unprecedented 500-year flood unleashed by the storm’s record rainfall. Like many families, they didn’t have flood insurance.
A news conference was held last week in what’s left of the Wetsel home, the interior of which was gutted down to the studs in January by a group of volunteers coordinated by Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Recovery. The nonprofit coalition and coordinating council — which provides interfaith and interagency resources, advocacy, support and direct recovery assistance — received a $250,000 donation from Fenimore Asset Management, which will help families like the Wetsels get back into their homes.
“There’s a possibility we may be able to move back home in the fall, but we’re not pushing anyone,” said Wetsel, who works at New Country Lexus in Latham. “It’s amazing the help we continue to receive from this community.”
Fenimore Asset Management pledged the matching grant to SALT last fall. The investment advisory firm is run by the Putnam family, whose home in Schoharie was also devastated by floodwaters. Vice president Anne Putnam said her parents were planning to move back over the weekend.
In addition to the check presentation, SALT Executive Director Sarah Goodrich shared the results of a comprehensive assessment undertaken to determine the remaining recovery needs throughout Schoharie County.
Nearly 300 homes and businesses have significant ongoing issues, which vary from cracked foundations and structural damage to homes which are partially rebuilt but need interior work like electric, plumbing and carpentry.
“Obviously, we have a long way to go … but how far we’ve come is something to celebrate,” said Goodrich, a retiree who has dedicated herself to providing recovery assistance. “We want the folks who continue to have unmet needs 18 months after the flood to know (they) are not alone.”
SALT has partnered with many organizations to provide “boots on the ground” assistance, with more than 25,000 volunteers contributing nearly 150,000 hours of labor worth more than $4 million.
SALT and its primary partner organization, Schoharie Recovery Inc., have been coordinating more than 25 volunteers per day, including skilled carpenters from the Palatine Bridge Amish community. A new team of nine AmeriCorps members came on board last week, who will assist with demolition and rebuilding projects throughout the valley, including the Wetsel family home.
“This is the first house we bought,” Wetsel said, “and the house I’ll die in.”
firstname.lastname@example.org • @JenSPatterson • 518-454-5340
How to help
Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Recovery and area partners have assisted more than 500 homeowners in Schoharie County after tropical storms Irene and Lee. For information about volunteering or recovery assistance, call 702-5017 or go to http://saltrecovery.org.