Clerks see Schoharie County’s disaster recovery
Rising from the mud
SCHOHARIE Not long after Tropical Storm Irene plastered the Schoharie Valley with floodwater, county clerks across the state started following the county’s rebuilding progress through slide shows and updates from their Schoharie-based colleague, Indica Jaycox.
She’s served up depressing photos of the Main Street office building’s mud-soaked mess at meetings of the state County Clerks Association during the past two years.
On Thursday, several county clerks got a tour of the remodeled offices and a chance to express some good-natured envy over the user-friendly features both for employees and the public installed as part of the work.
The roughly $5 million reconstruction project — another $5 million in flood protection measures is still in the planning phase — brought dozens of workers back to Schoharie earlier this year.
After the flood, a Department of Motor Vehicles office was situated in the Richmondville offices of Lancaster Development, a road and bridge construction company owned by Cobleskill Mayor Mark Galasso.
The records office was established in the Cooperative Extension building in Cobleskill.
Columbia County Clerk Holly C. Tanner said the past two years of weather represented a “real learning experience for most of the clerks,” and said disaster preparedness has become a prevalent topic.
It’s a topic Jaycox now has firsthand knowledge about, Tanner said.
“She has a unique perspective that a lot of us don’t have,” she said.
Empathy is another sentiment county clerks hold for Schoharie County’s emergency, which saw employees moved from their typical work environment even as many were dealing with personal disasters at home, Tanner said.
Cortland County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin said Irene’s aftermath brought a heightened awareness of disasters.
“A lot of what we learned we learned from Schoharie County’s disaster. It did alert us all to be prepared,” she said.
Larkin said her office is currently applying for grant funding to help pay for disaster preparation aimed at “continuity of operations” that’s required after disasters.
In Schoharie County’s case, truckloads of documents were being stored in the basement at the county building, and they had to be frozen and restored.
Larkin said her office isn’t near any threatening waterways, but she’s experienced flooding before that was caused by squirrels blocking drains.
“A disaster can come in many forms,” she said.
Other county clerks played a role after the disaster by accommodating the needs of Schoharie County residents while their government worked to get temporary offices set up.
“We were delighted to have them come down,” Greene County Clerk Mike Flynn said of Schoharie County residents who went to Catskill to turn in license plates and conduct other business.
Jaycox said her colleagues have been helping with advice and counsel throughout the recovery.
“They were always there to support me and help me out if I had any questions,” she said.
The newly remodeled offices feature plenty of lighting, room for employees to move around and a public service desk to make business at the Schoharie County Clerk’s office easier when it eventually is staffed.
Several clerks remarked at the user-friendly nature of the remodeled offices, though Tanner said none would want to endure the disastrous path it took to get there.
The accolades were much appreciated, Schoharie County Board Chairman Philip Skowfoe said.
“I makes you feel great,” he added.