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Big state role in storm cleanup

Water runs through Rob Breen’s property in Clarksville during Tropical Storm Irene. Breen has helped to organize a community meeting Nov. 30 for area residents interested in discussing flooding concerns.

Water runs through Rob Breen’s property in Clarksville during Tropical Storm Irene. Breen has helped to organize a community meeting Nov. 30 for area residents interested in discussing flooding concerns.

The final cost of cleaning up the damage from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee still isn’t known, but Bethlehem officials are getting a better idea of what the scope of work is and where they can turn to for help.

The town recently applied for a $1 million loan distributed through the State Environmental Facilities Corporation’s Hurricane Emergency Loan Program, or HELP. The money is specifically designed for municipal infrastructure projects such as damage to water treatment facilities and critical pump stations.

“The funds will go towards repairing water systems,” said EFC Director Matt Driscoll during a recent meeting of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet.

A total of $25 million in HELP loans are available to municipalities statewide. More than half of the money was earmarked as of Nov. 16.

Despite being a much-needed shot in the arm for Bethlehem, the town would have to pay the state back, and two options would be available. The town could use money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay back the state. Right now, it’s unclear when the town may receive FEMA funding for infrastructure projects. Town officials first met with FEMA representatives in October and continue to complete reviews of damaged areas throughout Bethlehem. The second option would be for the town to pay the money back as part of a long-term loan.

Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina said the town hasn’t seen the state money yet, but stressed how important the money will be to defray costs.

“If we don’t get that,” said Messina, “we’ll have to bond this.”

With hopes the state money is the way, town officials have already decided where the funds will be used. Messina said the state loan would fund improvements to the town’s water system on Wolf Hill Road and major repairs to the Dinmore Road Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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