B y Derek Liebig
About three dozen residents attended a public hearing Tuesday evening with a single question on their minds: How can you help us?
The question was posed by home owners, tenants and land owners who have been affected by flooding along Lake Champlain and was directed at public officials and representatives from local faith-based charitable organizations, all of whom pledged their full support.
The meeting, which was organized by Mayor Peter Telisky and Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon, brought together representatives from several local churches and Lake George based Neighbor to Neighbor.
The goal of the meeting was to help residents make contact with the organizations that are willing to help and for those organizations to coordinate and develop a plan to assist residents.
Janice Holden with Neighbor to Neighbor said her group has provided assistance to hurricane ravaged areas in the south as well as flooded portions of Nashville.
“You situation is different because the water won’t go away,” she said. “I know you’re anxious to get back to normal but you have to be patient. You have to wait for the water to go and then for everything to dry out.”
Holden said her group can has a number of volunteers who are willing to help clean out houses as well as experts, like engineers who check the structural integrity of homes.
She also provided resources and links people could access to learn more about the problems they face.
Some of the biggest problems people are facing are the buildup of debris on their property and the growth of mold.
Linda Smith, who owns a second home along Lake Champlain on Lower Main Street near the Whitehall Marina, said she and her husband have already had to resort to gutting their home because of water damage and the growth of mold.
Their biggest concern was how to get rid of the materials they have removed from the home, a concern expressed by several residents in attendance.
Supervisor Gordon said he has had discussions with the county and was going to do everything humanly possible to help residents get rid of waste for no charge to the residents.
He told people if they can pile up materials on the side of the road, town and village crews would come by and pick them up.
“We are going to help with the cleanup of debris but it gets complicated on private property,” Mayor Telisky said.
Jennifier Baker, who owns a home off North Williams Street was hoping to sell the house this year but instead is faced with repairing cedar beams that support the floor.
“I’m stuck; it’s all been a little overwhelming. But this has been helpful,” she said, adding that she was looking for more information than financial assistance.
Representatives from FEMA recently toured areas affected by the flooding but assistance remains unlikely because the cost of damages to public and private property does not meet the minimum threshold for assistance.
Gov.Andrew Cuomo has said he’s going to ask the President to declare parts of the state a disaster area which could make flooded communities eligible for more assistance. But with other parts of the country ravaged by flooding and tornados, it’s less than a certainty that the declaration will be made.