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News10NBC Investigates: NYS has millions for wind storm repair, but no one told your town (except Greece and Irondequoit)

March 08, 2018 06:08 PM

It's been exactly one year since we got hit by the powerful wind storm. There was millions of dollars in damage. 

Now, News10NBC investigators found out that state money to help reimburse local towns, villages and Monroe County is only going to a few select towns. Most municipalities didn't even know the money existed. 

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The wind storm ripped through Monroe County like a hurricane. A month later, Lake Ontario flooded lakeshore towns. By July, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill unlocking millions of dollars for flood relief.

Deep inside the bill, News10NBC found details about wind storm money. 

I read it to Gates Supervisor Mark Assini. 

Berkeley Brean, News10NBC: "This is the bill that was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. And it says that municipalities affected by the wind storm are eligible to apply for a grant under this subdivision. Did you know about this?"

Mark Assini, Town of Gates Supervisor: "Absolutely not."

Supervisor Assini says the Gates suffered $255,000 in damage. 

Brean: "Nobody who knew about this told you about it?" 

Mark Assini, Town of Gates Supervisor: "This piece of information, this bill was never communicated to me and I've spoken to several of my colleagues, they knew nothing about it." 

The wind storm cost Monroe County more than $300,000.
   
Brean: "Did you ever get an application to apply for this money?"

Jesse Sleezer, Monroe County Spokesman: "No, at no time did we receive an application."

Brean: "Did you know the money was available?" 

Sleezer: "No, no one from the state contacted us."
 
That's because the grant application in the bill never existed. 

Some towns like Irondequoit and Greece knew because their supervisors say they were told about the money. Now both towns are in line to get hundreds of thousands in storm aid.  
  
Brean: "How did you know about getting this aid for wind damage?"

Bill Reilich, Greece Town Supervisor: "Well we really didn't know. We just reached out our state representatives and said is there any type of assistance? We're dealing with quite a bit."

Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich says he was alerted to the aid by New York State Assemblyman Peter Lawrence from Greece and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle from Irondequoit. 

Greece never filled out a grant application because the application never existed. 
   
Brean: "So you made calls to your Assembly members and they told you this money is available."

Bill Reilich, Greece Town Supervisor: "Well they said they'd see what they could do and then at some point down the road we received a call saying we're able to secure some funding to help you reimburse you for some of those costs."
 
The law says the wind storm money is available in a grant through the agency called Empire State Development. 
News10NBC learned the money is actually getting spent through Assemblyman Morelle's office. 

In a statement, Morelle said, "In the aftermath of last year's historic windstorm, I was proud to secure $2 million in state funding that would provide critical relief to the many towns in our community that sustained severe damage. Since that time, my office has been working diligently and deliberatively to ensure these funds are distributed in the most effective and appropriate manner possible. As part of this process, my office has collaborated with the State Division of Budget to prioritize the distribution of these funds according to those towns that sustained the brunt of the storm damage and incurred the highest cleanup costs. In the days to come, my office will be working with the State to coordinate with all the affected municipalities in Monroe County that sustained wind storm-related damages. I have been proud to support our community in its time of need and I remain committed to advocating on behalf of all those who have been impacted by weather-related events in our region."

The entire ordeal has frustrated Gates' Town Supervisor. 

Mark Assini, Town of Gates Supervisor: "This is a complete cluster and somebody really needs to explain why this process happened the way it did. But the good news is and I want to give credit to your team here at News10NBC, we may end up getting some money now that this has been exposed and to me that's the bottom line. I want to get some money for my residents to reimburse expenses incurred in fighting this wind storm."

 

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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