A change in Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines could help Kingston offset the costs of repairing the Washington Avenue sinkhole. The change comes after U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer visited Kingston last month to call for FEMA aid to address the sinkhole.
The city has already spent about $3 million on the 4-year-old sinkhole. Crews are set to begin work, perhaps as early as this summer, on a remediation project that’s expected to cost another $4 million. A $1.2 million grant from the Federal Economic Development Agency will help offset the cost.
But Schumer, along with Kingston and Ulster County officials say federal disaster funds should be available for the sinkhole fix. They reason that the sinkhole was badly exacerbated by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy the next year.
Schumer said last month that FEMA guidelines were unclear on whether sinkholes were eligible for hazard mitigation funds; the agency, he said, had never funded a sinkhole repair project. The senator, flanked by Mayor Shayne Gallo and County Executive Mike Hein, vowed he would push the agency to clarify the guidelines.
On Monday, Schumer announced that the lobbying had paid off — FEMA had declared sinkholes eligible for the funding. The city must still apply for the money, though.
Gallo said this week that as soon as he received official word from FEMA on the changes, he would prepare and submit a claim. The city has already borrowed money to carry out the remediation project; any FEMA funding for the repair would come in the form of reimbursement.