FEMA money funds Bethlehem pool roof

Posted at: 12/07/2012 5:43 PM
Updated at: 12/07/2012 6:14 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann

BETHLEHEM - Several hundred thousand dollars in tax dollars are being spent to replace part of the roof on the pool house in Bethlehem's Elm Avenue Park. Money, normally reserved to help rebuild after a disaster, even though the pool building wasn't damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

That's because FEMA approved the Town of Bethlehem's request to divert money to fix a bridge that was damaged in the flood last year... an old railroad bridge across the Onesquethaw Creek.

The cost to repair it to pre-storm conditions? Nearly half a million dollars. But Town officials decided it wasn't worth it, because the bridge no longer got much use.

FEMA allows municipalities to use up to 90% of the total cost for an alternate project that benefits its residents.

So instead, the Town got $122,000 to demolish the bridge, and $265,000 to replace parts of the pool roof.

75% of it - FEMA money; 25% from New York State. All your taxpayer money.

What do Bethlehem Town officials say justifies using FEMA money to put on a new pool roof? We don't know, because the Town Supervisor turned down our request to talk about it.

"It doesn't seem fair, doesn't seem right. It seems like a misallocation of funds," said Schoharie Mayor John Borst.

Tropical Storm Irene devastated much of Borst's village. And with the current needs after Superstorm Sandy, he said FEMA money should only be spent on actual disaster relief.

"FEMA funds are meant to repair flood damage. And if you don't need the money to repair flood damage, let the people downstate or wherever flood damage occurs to use that money," said Borst.

Again, FEMA regulators did approve this alternate project for the pool roof.


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