Clean Sweep launched to help with post-Irene work

Arkville — In the aftermath of disaster, the impulse to rebuild and re-inhabit our homes and businesses is extremely urgent. In the wake of Irene, however, The MARK Project is spearheading a program to harness the energy of volunteers and the expertise of building and rehab specialists to make sure rebuilding and recovery is done correctly with long-term sustainability in mind.

MARK’s Clean Sweep Program was inspired in part by efforts already underway in Prattsville that were initiated by Peg DiBenedetto, as part of her job with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a team that was very active during and right after the flood in Prattsville. 

Much like Katrina
“I went to New Orleans after Katrina, and many villages in the Catskills looked just like post-Katrina, total devastation.” DiBenedetto adds, “This coupled with those of us who us saw and learned from damage assessment efforts in Prattsville thought, we should take this same expertise and process to Margaretville, Fleischmanns and points south…so five of us worked with the Prattsville team to train to be the damage assessment team for our area.” 

Once MARK Project Executive Director Peg Ellsworth decided to include this effort to other stricken communities, she immediately hired a Clean Sweep Program coordinator, Catherine Lehn, to manage the larger forces needed to exponentially ensure assessment and rebuilding projects are addressed with the long-term health and safety of the community in mind.

With a degree in child and family studies, Lehn was the perfect complement to the MARK staff, and will be coordinating and scheduling volunteer groups and the various building assessments.

“A lot of people are willing to help but aren’t sure how. I am doing a small part to ensure that the talents of our volunteers are utilized in the most effective way,” said Katie, adding, “I have met a lot of people affected by the flooding and am looking forward to helping them put their lives back together.” 

Armed with moisture meters and building experience, Billy Allison, already MARK’s Building Rehab Specialist, will work with MARK board member Rick Osterhoudt and Fleischmanns Town Councilman Todd Pascarella to assist with project assessments and rebuilding plans.

The moisture meter is critical in determining what kind of damage may be settling behind the sheetrock and embedded in the insulation. It is an infrared device that pin points exactly where moisture exists and helps determine the extent of repair needed. Peg Dibenedetto and Catherine Lehn round out the team.

“Homeowners should know that their property may need more than one assessment — we want to make sure every stage of construction is safe and mold-free,” said Peg DiBenedetto.

A long process
“Recovery and rebuilding is going to be a long and tedious process,” admitted Ellsworth, adding, “But the need to assess properties and implement correct clean up and rebuilding procedures is imperative to the long term health and safety of our communities. The Clean Sweep Program is just one step in the recovery and rebuilding process but we are working diligently to ensure that the communities affected by Irene are aware of the program and take advantage of the expertise of both our volunteers and MARK Project staff.”

“Clean Sweep” is but one of several flood recovery programs and resources offered by MARK, which also has funds for and manages an omnibus Flood Relief and Emergency Assistance Fund to provide financial aid to families, individuals, not for profits and community organizations. In addition, MARK will soon launch a Middletown Small Business Development Fund, once again with long-term sustainability in mind. 

Community resource
MARK members are also a resource for information and connection to other flood relief efforts and resources, such as FEMA or the Small Business Administration. “Over the next few weeks you will see the MARK Project launching new assistance programs to coordinate with other regional and community resources,” said Ellsworth, adding, “Although the aftermath of Irene requires immediate attention, we also have to ensure that resources are available long after the clean up is complete. We need to consider successful rebuilding technologies and work together to develop strategies for long term sustainability.” 

“I was stuck in Halcott Center for three days after the flood,” said DiBenedetto. “When I finally got to Fleischmanns the first thing I saw was Peg Ellsworth, walking on Main Street with our mayor Dave Morell and Councilman Todd Pascarella. All I can say is that she must be a force of nature.”

You can be part of an assessment team even if you have no specific building skills, a checklist and team leaders will guide you. Please join in these important building evaluations. If you feel like your home or business needs a “Clean Sweep” assessment, or you just aren’t sure about the long-term condition of your property, contact Katie Lehn at MARK at 586-3500 and she will schedule an assessment protocol for you.

There are relief funds available to help people with their housing rehab. MARK also has many resources and links posted at www.markproject.org.