Essex County lawmakers have offered the Federal Emergency Management Agency free office space in AuSable Forks, hoping the agency will continue local operations seven months after Tropical Storm Irene devastated communities along the AuSable River.
The county's Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution last week that "urges FEMA to continue operations in Essex County." Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas, who chairs the county board, said his town would provide free office space at its Community Center in AuSable Forks.
"It might not be needed here, but in case there is a possibility they could reconsider and send somebody up here I just want to make sure that they are aware that office space is available," Douglas said.
Douglas told the Enterprise that all of FEMA's project workers have been moved to Albany, although some employees from the state Office of Emergency Management are "still in the area."
He said state workers are helping homeowners apply for aid and other assistance programs, but all of the paperwork still needs to go to FEMA for final approval.
More than 70 homeowners have applied for FEMA's property buyout program, and some second homeowners are just returning to the area to assess damage. Douglas said a group of Essex County officials will travel to Albany on April 24 to meet with state emergency officials.
"We're going to start those discussions on April 24 down there to see if we can get a representative permanently assigned up here for the next five or six months," he said. "I don't know if that will happen, and I'm not sure if working out of Albany will cause us any problems, but I just want to make sure that we won't have problems."
The trip to Albany later this month will include a meeting with Steven Kuhr, director of the emergency management office. Douglas said one of his top priorities is to review project worksheets for the county and the towns of Jay and Keene.
He said fire officials may address insurance issues that have come up as the Keene and Upper Jay volunteer fire departments look to rebuild their fire stations. A representative from the state Department of Financial Services may be on hand to answer insurance-related questions, Douglas said.
"We are also going to be dealing with debris issues and those (sorts) of things," he said at last week's board meeting.