Proposed loan program may tide over flooded Fort Plain businesses
MONTGOMERY COUNTY While Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promised flood recovery funding trickles through state channels toward devastated property owners, Montgomery County officials are working on temporary help for businesses.
“We call it a bridge loan program,” said Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose.
The idea, he said, is simply to provide up to $200,000 in no-interest loans to business owners with the expectation of future state funding.
Owners would be able to cut all necessary checks, rebuild, then pay the county back when state money actually arrives.
“There are a lot of factors at play,” Rose said, “but state money could take three to seven months to reach flood victims. Business are incurring costs now.”
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors will consider the bridge loan resolution at their next regular meeting Tuesday. Chairman John Thayer did not return calls for comment on the resolution’s likelihood of approval, but Rose isn’t concerned.
“We’ve done this after the last few floods,” he said. “Richardson Brands took part; so did Cellect LLC.”
The $4 million Cuomo announced Wednesday to help Montgomery County recover from June 28 flash flooding will eventually help both home and business owners. The county bridge loan money would be pulled from the Industrial Development Agency’s roughly $2 million revolving loan fund, which can be used only for businesses.
Just in Fort Plain, there are plenty of businesses in need. Estimated tallies of flood-affected businesses in Fort Plain varied dramatically through the recovery thus far. Initially, village Mayor Guy Barton said there were 87 damaged businesses. Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Adam Schwabrow thought 30 was more accurate.
By Rose’s door-to-door count, 47 businesses were impacted, some desperately so. Save-a-Lot, Nice N Easy and the Family Dollar were hit especially hard.
“A few businesses won’t be coming back,” he said. “That’s just how it is.”
News and Variety, for example, is closed for good, Village Clerk Dianne Hoffman said.
The businesses staying in Fort Plain need help.
Papa Joe’s, a pizzeria on Main Street, opened two weeks after the flood water receded.
“We were in Washington state when it happened,” said pizzeria owner Carol Schultz. “Everything was just mud by the time we got back.”
Schultz’s furnace, hot water heater, freezer and three-phase electrical system were ruined, not to mention all of the food on hand.
It’s a family business, run by Schultz and her husband for the past dozen years. Their personal finances are tied up in the pizzeria.
“We had to move around some of our money,” she said. “It’s taken thousands to get to the point we’re at now.”
Currently, they have the kitchen and lobby open but no dining room. Schultz estimates it will take thousands more to reach pre-flood condition. She’s wary of political promises but said help would be much appreciated.
“It would be nice to get it sooner rather than later,” she said.
She had the savings to get Papa Joe’s back on its feet, but Rose said other small businesses don’t.
According to the paperwork, businesses could get up $200,000; eligibility would be determined by code enforcement officers. If they repaid the loan within six months, they’d be charged no interest. Should state money fall through, Rose said, businesses could pay very low interest over five years.
Rose and his team have scattered fliers through the village advertising the bridge loans.