Mayor: 87 businesses won't reopen

Posted at: 07/10/2013 12:02 AM
By: Dan Levy

FORT PLAIN - Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton says 87 business owners have told him they will not reopen following last month's devastating flood. That warning, however, comes with a caveat that if FEMA money or other grant money becomes available -- preferably sooner rather than later -- perhaps some of those businesses can be saved.

Frank's Pizzeria on Main Street was open for business Tuesday night, less than two weeks after sustaining basement flood damage, and people were coming in.

"It's pretty much the same people that used to come are still coming," said owner Mario Carollo.

But the problem is, Frank's was the ONLY place in the village open for business on this night. All up and down the main business district, restaurants and shops were dark and sidewalks were empty. And so now the question becomes: is Fort Plain seeing it's future?

"I've got 87 businesses that are not planning to reopen," said Mayor Barton.

Those businesses, mostly mom and pops, represent about 75% of all businesses in Fort Plain, all of them ravaged by the flooding on June 26th, many still cleaning up, and some having already given up after running out of money.

"If they get a little help they may stay open," Barton speculated, "If they don't they'll be closed. They want to come back but they need that extra little push, or help, from the federal government or from any organization."

In the says following the flood, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand toured the flood zone, promising to do what ever they could to help.

"They know what they said and they said we're going to get help," Barton says, "That's the final word when they left my office: you will get help!"

If the feds don't pony up, Governor Cuomo, who also visited the area, promised the state "would not leave home owners on their own".

On Tuesday the governor told reporters had had spoken to federal officials earlier in the day but said, "At this point I am not overly optimistic. I believe we should qualify for the federal funds and I'm going to advocate for the federal funds because the state doesn't have this kind of money either."

Village residents understand the economics, but getting a 'no' from Washington would be something they don't want to hear.

"They're way to slow," said Elaine Skottke, a Fort Plain resident unaffected by the flood, "I've heard people complain. I've heard people say, "Where's the help? We need it now. What's taking so long?"

They're not just worried about businesses in Fort Plain. Fifty-one homes have also been condemned according to the mayor, and some neighborhoods are still without water or sewer service. In addition, roads and bridges need to be repaired.

The good news though is that the Save-a-Lot grocery store and the Family Dollar have informed the mayor they will reopen. Also, National Grid is trying to get permission from the State Public Service Commission so that they can provide grants to enable businesses to get back on their feet.

Mayor Barton says there is a village board meeting scheduled for 9:30 A.M. Thursday morning to discuss options in the community.