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The Telegram
  • Schools stay afloat after storms

  • Several area school districts experienced major damage due to flooding on June 28 and the continued heavy rainfall since.

    With already tight budgets, the schools now are forced to focus on flood cleanup and prevention — an expensive and lengthy process.

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  • Matthew Reilly weaved through stacks of chairs, books, classroom supplies and other furniture that filled the Clinton High School gymnasium Tuesday.
    “Here’s my office,” the Clinton Central School District superintendent said, pointing to a pile of desk and cabinet parts that were salvaged from muddy flood waters.
    It’s been nearly two weeks since about a foot of water flooded the school’s gym, district offices, media center and several offices and classrooms.
    Several area school districts experienced major damage due to flooding on June 28 and the continued heavy rainfall since.
    With already tight budgets, the schools now are forced to focus on flood cleanup and prevention — an expensive and lengthy process.
    Among them, Owen D. Young Central School District is estimating $2 million in damage, and the newly formed Central Valley Central School District about $900,000. Clinton doesn’t yet have the estimated cost of the damage.
    “It’s all going to be fine,” Reilly said, adding that the majority of Clinton’s damage will be covered by insurance.
    “It just forces us to focus on things that aren’t necessarily part of our mission,” he said. “I’d have loved to have spent the entire summer on curriculum and instruction.”
    Damage, cleanup
    All three districts are working to clean the schools and repair the buildings.
    But cleanup can be costly because it involves removing the water, debris and mud. The site must then be properly dried and sanitized, removing any contaminants and mold — all before repairs can start.
    The districts are waiting to see if Federal Emergency Management Agency funds will be available.
    In the past, the majority of anything not covered by the districts’ insurance is covered by FEMA and state emergency funds, said Mark Vivacqua, Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES district superintendent.
    “Hopefully, when all is said and done this will be very little or no local taxpayer money,” Vivacqua said. “Once the president declares this a disaster then we’ll hear from FEMA and know more about what their piece of this is going to be.”
    The majority of the damage to Central Valley was at Gregory B. Jarvis Junior-Senior High School in Mohawk to its gym and technology rooms as well as a retaining wall and stadium bleachers, said Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr.
    The school board passed a resolution Monday allowing the district to start and pay for emergency work. It’ll have to borrow money until relief funds are available.
    Disaster crews have been in Clinton for the past 10 days, though Reilly said he expects the cleanup to be done by the end of the week.
    Looking ahead
    The next step: rebuilding and putting the school back together in time for fall, something all three districts said will happen. The districts also are looking at prevention.
    Page 2 of 2 - Flooding at Owen D. Young caused damage to the school’s foundation, gymnasium and washed away the stream bank, moving the waterway about 6 to 8 feet from the school, said Superintendent James Picolla.
    “What we hope to do is take some mitigation steps to improve the stream bank and move it back to its original location and create some sort of flood barrier,” he said.
    In February, Clinton voters passed a resolution approving a $7.49 million capital project that includes the construction of a retention wall for flood mitigation. It was then submitted to the state for approval.
    Architects have been at the school buildings to assess the damage and look at revising the plan, Reilly said.
    Though he said he hopes the increase in emergency capital projects needing to be approved by the state Education Department doesn’t keep the project from starting next year.
    “As good as our response is, I don’t want to keep responding,” Reilly said. “I’d rather get proactive on this. I hope we put something significant in place and that it never has to be used.”
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