Sarah’s Snippets – 6/23/2015
Recovery from the devastation caused by Irene and Lee began with clean-up, mucking out, and debris removal. Then SALT quickly moved to rebuilding structures and assisting people with the rebuilding of their houses and businesses. The rebuilding phase of recovery has continued for nearly four years.
Yet when one looks around the area there are still buildings that are not rebuilt, houses that are still empty, businesses that remain empty. Questions SALT often hears are: how many houses remain unfinished? Why would SALT engage in other projects before every place has been restored to active use? These are all good questions. However, the answers are not simple. Each building that still needs recovery has its own story.
Historically speaking, there were many buildings that were unoccupied or abandoned and in need of work prior to the flooding events. While they are obvious sources of annoyance and blight, these were not the result of the disaster. These properties do need intervention but their short term rebuilding is not what our donations were designated to repair. The SALT mandate for the donations given for unmet needs following the disaster is for disaster affected properties. It is the responsibility of the staff and Board of Directors to utilize those funds as intended by the donors.
So far over $700,000 has been designated for projects, and most of those dollars have been spent. If these actual dollars are combined with the value of volunteer labor, coordination, and donated supplies, SALT has generated over 17 million dollars worth of value to the recovery of Schoharie County. This value, combined with the dollars that came from FEMA, insurance companies, other agencies, the municipalities, New York State, and the federal government, provide a larger view of the actual cost of long term recovery…and the area is not finished; indeed more funds are needed.
The above information is all part of the answer to the questions posed above. The structures that SALT has had on the list of projects that have been designated for funding and assistance are almost complete. Those that are in progress are expected to be completed by summer’s end. Concurrently, SALT’s funds for rebuilding are almost depleted. However, we do continue to appeal to grants for additional funding because there is blight that needs to be addressed, there are abandoned properties that need to be resolved, and there are numerous needs for community renewal.
We do not have an accurate count of vacancies that are a result of the 2011 disaster because so many properties are still “in limbo.” Some wait for funding from New York Rising, or bankruptcy court, insurance companies, or bank loans. Some await teardowns from FEMA buyouts. Some await additional funding to combine with private money due to the size of the project. Others were never counted originally as owners chose not to share their status with any government or private agency trying to assist.
SALT has a vested interest in helping to resolve these challenges. Our mission states that “SALT rebuilds resilient and sustainable communities.” This means that the basic process of rebuilding is not our only purpose. Rebuilding structures is vitally important, especially in the early stage of long term recovery. But communities are much more than rebuilt structures. Communities need active and vibrant businesses for residents to work in and frequent. Communities need employment and entrepreneurial opportunities so people will be able to live. Communities need intergenerational experiences so people of all ages can be active participants in community life. Communities need safe and interesting recreational opportunities. Communities need churches that are restored. Communities need health and safety to be assured. Communities need an appreciation of their history maintained. Communities need their valuable environmental assets preserved. All of these things contribute to creating resilient and sustainable communities.
This is why SALT is doing “other” projects. SALT’s goal is to partner with others who are also working toward resilient and sustainable communities in Schoharie County and our region. Building a positive future for our area requires collaborative partnerships and diligence, since this kind of sustainable recovery is long and often hard. However, Schoharie County is well on the way to full recovery, to that vision of communities that are vibrant, thriving, resilient, and sustainable for generations to come.