Niagara Gazette — TOWN OF NIAGARA - A group of town residents upset about their representatives' handling of flooding caused by a devastating July 19 thunderstorm performed their own type of flooding during a board meeting earlier this week.
After many of them watched their belongings and memories float in feet of water in their basements, the residents filled town hall on Tuesday to question why town leaders never issued a state of emergency after the big storm hit.
More than 50 residents, many from the Belden Center neighborhood, demanded answers after they were either denied insurance coverage or left holding expensive bills for cleanup.
"We needed help," one resident yelled from her seat in the audience. "It was obvious this was a state of emergency," yelled another. They were all concerned a lack of a declaration could cost residents emergency assistance money once it becomes available.
Deputy Supervisor Danny Sklarski, who was in charge of town affairs at the time as Supervisor Steve Richards was out of town during the storm, said he was in meetings with town, county and state officials throughout the heavy rain event and was ready to make a declaration if needed.
But, Sklarski said, the word never came so there was no declaration.
"The situation was being monitored," Sklarski said. "If it had gotten worse, if we were not making progress, then a state of emergency would have been called. But I was told by our department heads the situation was getting better. Our community center was open Saturday morning, the Red Cross was on stand by."
So what exactly is a state of emergency? According to New York state law, a local municipality's chief executive can call a state of emergency during a public catastrophe, but it must be filed within 72 hours of the disaster.