Flood Remembrance unites community

By John Bernhardt
It just might become a save-the-date event. If the turnout and good feel of Thursday’s Community Picnic and Remembrance are indicators, the Community Picnic could become a staple of the local summer calendar.

You could find all the gentle, wholesome, personal touches that come with small town life at the picnic. Hot dogs on the grill, homemade ice cream sundaes, and the laughter and neighborly conversation that comes with the same texture of two neighbors chatting while leaning over the sides of a white picket fence were a big part of the night.

“In small towns people are always, the most important resource. That’s what this day was all about,” smiled Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller.

Miller may have been referring to the hordes of folks, people from near and far, who rolled up their sleeves and answered the bell by responding to Irene one year and two days earlier with generosity, compassion and hard work.

Much to discuss
She may have been referring to the proactive, forward-thinking folks whose on-going efforts continue to build ‘community capacity’ to fend off future natural weather events. Or, the supervisor may simply have been referencing to the informal banter that comes wherever the folks of any community’s extended family gather.

There was time made for looking back. A contingent of special guests including Congressman Chris Gibson, State Senator Jim Steward, Assemblymen Pete Lopez and Cliff Crouch, native daughter Kathleen Mami-Moore, Kevin McCabe from the governor’s office, representatives from the National Guard and state troopers from Troop ‘C’ and others joined a crowd of some 300 in a long moment of silence in memory of Leah Stern-Gluck and all who have suffered as a result of Irene.

Dick Tucker led the Community Chorale in the performance of “Hurricane Blues,” a song written by a local flood volunteer Victoria Quesada. Tucker urged the crowd to visit bandcamp.com a website featuring six different versions of the song. Versions can be downloaded for a $1 charge with all proceeds going to the MARK Projects’ ongoing Flood Relief Fund.

Fleischmanns Mayor Todd Pascarella, Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton and Miller presented brief updates on village and town post-floods activities. To thunderous applause, each cited the efforts of community organizations, churches, and volunteers for their tireless efforts assisting people after the floods.

Supervisor Miller announced that earlier in the week she had received verbal indication from the United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties that the Town of Middletown would be receiving grant funds to be used as part of the Middletown Preparedness Project.

Forth-four thousand dollars was given to targeted specifically for flood relief efforts in Delaware County. Middletown submitted a comprehensive proposal totaling $43,616.79 that included the purchase of equipment and supplies for all local fire departments, villages and hamlets to use in combating future floods. The grant would allow the purchase and stocking of several flood recovery sheds with the basic equipment used in last year’s cleanup. Fire departments would receive life jackets, towropes, submersible pumps, and other vital items. Sheds would be stocked with tarps, gloves, masks, shop vacuums, pet kennels.

During a short break, attendees visited tables scattered throughout the halls to learn information related to flood recovery and to leave comments and suggestions for future consideration by local decision makers. For example, did you know the Town of Middletown spent $1.4 million on flood recovery work, 37 roads needed to be repaired and four county bridges were destroyed?

Delaware County wrote 30 FEMA Project Work Sheets for damage by Irene in Middletown for a total of $9,916,301.71. To date the county has received $367,899.84 in reimbursements. Included in the balance are several large projects that total $8,323,763.97 but because the projects have not been completed they are not yet eligible for reimbursements.

The damage was not limited to Irene. Three Project Work Sheets written by Delaware County in the Town of Middletown total $132,344.52. The county has been fully reimbursed for these projects.
After the break the program shifted to the MCS auditorium where Pat Davis, Middletown’s Community Rating System Coordinator, overviewed and answered questions about the rating system. Grayton Dutcher, the Delaware County Soil and Water District Stream Corridor manager, and three staff members presented an overview addressing stream programs. Stream dynamics, climate patterns, and changing strategies in addressing our mountain streams were all discussed.

Especially valuable was the opportunity for people owning property directly affected by stream-bank projects scheduled to begin sometime during the next one or two years to meet with Dutcher or someone from his staff to raise issues and concerns.

Miller thinks the night was a success. “I’m so pleased as many people turned out as they did. It’s amazing what can happen when a committed group of local folks put their heads together and go to work on a community project.”

Miller says the event planning committee is already talking about making the Community Picnic an annual event with the venue changing every year to highlight a different locale in the town. The last Thursday before Labor Day just might become the save-the-date Community Picnic Day.