KEENE - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday traveled to Keene to announce up to $640,000 in state funding that will allow construction to move forward on the town's new firehouse, one year after the station was washed away by Hurricane Irene.
The Keene Fire Station was destroyed on August 28, 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene, and construction on a new building was scheduled to begin this August. However, town officials were informed recently that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would not approve the funding necessary for the project to move forward. The action taken by the Governor today will close the funding gap and allow contracts to be signed, so area residents can come one step closer to the restoration of the critical fire, rescue and ambulance services provided by the station.
"New York State made a clear commitment to communities hit hard by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, that we will be with you every step of the way as you rebuild and recover," Cuomo said. "Today's announcement will put in place the last missing piece of the funding to allow the Town of Keene to build a new firehouse and restore a vital piece of infrastructure that was destroyed by Hurricane Irene. Here in New York, when disaster strikes and help is needed, we come together as one and step up to the plate to do whatever it takes to rebuild stronger and better than ever before."
Gov. Cuomo in Keene earlier today.
The total project cost is estimated at $2.3 million. Insurance on the Fire Department covered $635,000, town voters approved a $500,000 public bond, and in December 2011, the Town of Keene received a grant notification of $680,000 from FEMA. However, FEMA recently reduced the committed grant, leaving the Town without the necessary funding to begin the project.
The funding announced by the governor will cover the $340,000 reduction by FEMA, and add an additional $300,000 to reimburse the Keene Fire Department for the cost to acquire the new land where the firehouse will be built. The $640,000 is funded through the state Office of Community Renewal.
The governor's actions come days before the original bids on construction of the new firehouse would have expired. Without the state's expedited action, the contracts would likely have had to go back out to re-bid, delaying the critical project's start by months if not longer. With the funding announced today, construction on the new firehouse is expected to be completed by next spring.
"The FEMA withdrawal was going to be a devastating blow to our recovery efforts but due to Governor Cuomo's actions we are proceeding with the construction of the new Keene Fire Station as planned," said state Senator Betty Little in a press release. "This money will help communities across this region rebuild and recover better and stronger than before. The Governor and his team have stepped up to the plate once again and I thank him for his dedication to this town and to the North Country."
"Thanks to Governor Cuomo, the state has once again stepped up - this time with a $640,000 check that will help us continue rebuilding our town after the destruction of Hurricane Irene," Bill Ferebee, Keene town supervisor, said in the release. A year ago, as flood waters swept through the streets, it seemed that hope was lost, but the governor and his team have been here on the ground to help us respond, clean up, and start to rebuild. And now he has come through again - providing us with the funds we desperately need to finish rebuilding our community and putting the shovels in the ground for our new firehouse."