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Friday headlines

Sep 30, 2011 12:29 am
Anyone got a spare $10 million?
Earlier in the week in The Daily Mail Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said it would cost about $10 million to fix Greene County's roads and bridges damaged from the storms associated with Hurricane Irene. Similarly, Michael Ryan in the Windham Journal has a long story looking at Prattsville's future, and Town Supervisor Kory O’Hara estimates it will take $10 million to return the town to normal. And it is not as simple, or difficult, as finding huge sums of money. Political fingerpointing has already begun, budgetary constraints may delay repairs for years, and many residents have left or are considering leaving as winter approaches.

Ryan's story paints a grim picture in Prattsville. The Prattsville Relief Fund has collected $112,000 in donations, and are about to begin distributing the funds to needy locals. Prattsville is considering borrowing $2 million in low-interest bonds. The Young’s Agway Store in town is selling everything for half price. The New York Times recently painted a vivid tale of life at the Prattsville Tavern, which has stayed open even without a bar. The town has begun holding meetings every Monday evening. “A lot of people are holding up their hands, saying they’re going,” Ryan reports one resident said. “What incentive do we have to stay when this can all just happen again?” O’Hara warns that Prattsville is a small town, and if it loses 30 homes, there could be a 30 percent increase in taxes for anyone left. Soon it will be cold, making staying that much more difficult.

Jim Planck in The Windham Journal reports that there is some money coming to help. The Catskill Watershed Corporation diverted $5 million from its Catskill Fund for the Future, for direct aid to storm-damaged businesses and towns. “That ($5,000,000) was then divided among the (five) watershed counties,” County Legislator and Hunter town attorney Larry Gardner told Planck. Greene County gets $930,500 in total, with Prattsville getting $600,000, roughly, Windham about $250,000, and Hunter receiving $90,000. Ashland, Jewett, Lexington, and Halcott, Planck reports, have indicated no businesses eligible for the funds. The Greene County Industrial Development Agency has also set aside $100,000 in another program.

Thursday, Sept. 29, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection added $1 million to that CWC fund, Mid-Hudson News reported, so those town figures should all rise in proportion. The DEP says it has also provided $1 million in in-kind contributions of manpower, equipment, and materials to assist Catskills communities flooded by the storms. The $1 million donation announcement comes in the face of heavy criticism of the DEP from people in Prattsville. "Folks are angry about the streams, claiming DEP won’t let the town maintain them right," Ryan writes in The Windham Journal. "O’Hara said he talked to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland shortly after the storm. 'I told him what we think they did to us and that we needed money to fix our problems. It’s been thirty days and we haven’t heard anything from them,'" O’Hara told the reporter. It looks like O'Hara is now hearing Prattsville might be getting about $120,000 from the DEP, a drop in the bucket, to pardon the pun, of the $10 million Prattsville needs.

Groden, the new Greene County administrator, is using the storm to attack Gov. Andrew Cuomo's two-percent property tax cap. “Our requirement under the two percent cap means we couldn’t increase the tax levy by more than $350,000. So, we can’t make repairs with the cap, unless the residents are willing wait four to five years,” said Groden. The math is that if the bill is $10 million, the county has to pay for $1,250,000 of that, and the tax cap only allows the county to raise $350,000 per year.

Concert for the Catskills
The Catskill Glee Club, Phil Brown (of Little Feat), members of the Allman Brothers Band, Kitty Kelly, Peter Head, The Trapps, Voodelic, the Jonny Monster Band, Abby Lappen, Steve Charney, Rhett Tyler, and the dancers from the Mike Farrell School of Irish Dance are among the many performers at the "Concert for the Catskills" Oct. 1-2 at the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural Center (2267 Route 145) in East Durham which benefits storm victims. Performances take from noon until 10 p.m. Saturday and noon until 7 p.m. Sunday, and styles range from Irish to rock to country to folk to comedy and dance. Community Action of Greene County will make sure all of the money raised goes to Greene County storm victims.
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