ITHACA, NY – In June, severe flooding affected several areas of Tompkins County, with outlying towns like Newfield and Danby seeing some of the worst of it. Repair work has been ongoing since.

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There’s an end in sight, but still a lot of work to be done – and a lot of money to be spent. Danby Town Supervisor Ric Dietrich says that most major repairs are complete, but many roads still have sides or shoulders that are washed out, leaving them with a “costly and dangerous situation.”

Dietrich gave a very rough estimate that the rest of the repairs in Danby could be finished in a year’s time.

Meanwhile, with so much repair work focused on flood-damaged areas, there has been little time to do routine road maintenance. “The biggest concern is loss of infrastructure. It gets really hard to get caught up when that starts to go south,” Dietrich said.

Of course, it’s not just municipalities that suffer. Many residents are still recovering. Dietrich noted that some residents didn’t have flood insurance – never realizing they would need it – and now face higher-than-usual repair and replacement costs.

Dietrich noted that small municipalities are put in particularly difficult situations when disasters like this happen. He estimated that the monetary damage to the roads was between $300 and $400 thousand – and that is just to the roads the town owns. Damage to county- and state- owned roads are in a similar range.

Dietrich said that the town did have a stockpile of roadwork materials and equipment, built up over the past 2-3 years, that was largely wiped out in the repairs. This could spell a problem if next year brings another large storm. “Are we going to have the same problem come spring? Every indication is that we are… There’s just too many needs and not enough money to do it with.”

Asked if the financial impact of the flood set back any of the towns other projects, Dietrich seems to have taken the long view. “There’s always projects. If the town put an actual list together of things it felt were fairly important to do, there would never be enough money in the budget… It’s a matter of trying to figure out which ones are essential.” 

Dietrich did mention one positive effect of the ordeal: “What came out of all this is a whole mess of workshops on how we’re doing emergency management flood control… How to budget for these kinds of things, where money is available, how to apply for it. People were really stepping up to the plate and giving individuals new tools to work with.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.