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City to play key role in allocating Lockport flood aid

After attending a statewide conference on flood relief Thursday in Albany, Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the city will play a key role in obtaining reimbursement for Lockport home and business owners who incurred losses in the June 28 flash flood.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday that the state Flood Recovery Program will make $2 million available to Niagara County, where almost all the flood damage was in the City of Lockport.

That came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied claims for individual property owners’ losses in Lockport.

Tucker said state officials want the city to form a committee to spread the word to property owners about what they have to do, and also to gather the documentation about each one’s losses.

“Everything’s going to have to be verified,” Tucker said. “The onus is on the municipality to get the information.”

That information will be sent to Albany, which will consider the documentation and issue checks in eight months or so.

Tucker said he was given a contact person at the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal to assist the city’s efforts.

The city has received notices of claim from 54 homeowners, but that’s the practice used to submit a claim to the city’s insurance company or to plow the ground for a lawsuit.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano warned Wednesday that such a practice might drive up the city’s insurance premiums next year.

Tucker said the city now will probably set up a special damage file for the information needed.

About 600 home basements were flooded, and several businesses incurred major damage in the flood. Unlike FEMA, the state will pay for appliances, floors, drywall and other domestic losses, but only with proper documentation.

Some had private insurance, and U.S. Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer and State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, urged insurers Thursday to make sure they move quickly in settling damage claims from Lockport homeowners.

In a joint letter, the senators asked the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which operates the federal flood insurance program, “not to nickel-and-dime homeowners who have already been denied individual assistance by FEMA.”

FEMA refused to assist individuals but approved $800,000 in reimbursements to the City of Lockport for restoration of public infrastructure.