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Repairs underway at Owen D. Young, school will open on time

By NICOLE PITT

VAN HORNESVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) - Quick action, hard work and a lot of help from the community will make it possible for the Owen D. Young Central School District to open on time this fall. The building and the grounds sustained $2 million worth of damages when the floods hit back in June.

"This summer has been unprecedented," said James Piccola, Superintendent of the Owen D. Young Central School District. "People have had to step up and work to their finest to make sure that school was going to happen. The amount of work and the level of busyness to face challenges that no one would have ever expected has been remarkable."

There is a lot of activity on the grounds of the school and there has been for much of the summer. At the end of June the Otsquago Creek jumped it's bank and scoured the schools foundation. More than 10 feet of land disappeared into the moving water.

"The first floor of the building was flooded," said Piccola. "Anywhere between one and ten inches of water give or take. It caused a lot of damage there."

The worst damage was inside the gym. The entire floor had to be torn up and will be replaced. The cost to replace the floor is upwards of $250 thousand. School officials expect the floor to be finished in October.

"Until the gym floor is fixed, students will be doing activities outside on days that the weather is appropriate and inappropriate days they'll be using the weight rooms and doing some classroom instruction during their gym periods."

Meanwhile crews are busy putting the creek back together again and strengthening the banks with large boulders reinforced with steel rods. Work on the creek should be complete by the second week of September. The safety fencing that was torn down by the strong current will be replaced before school starts next week.

After the creek is fixed the attention will turn to repairing the soccer field where the modified team plays. For now Richfield Springs school officials have offered full use of their fields for as long as necessary.

Piccola expects most of the $2 million in damages will be covered by FEMA and the burden should not fall on taxpayers. "We expect they will cover 75% of the cost," said Piccola. "The state typically picks up another 12.5% and the State Education Department will help offset the rest of it."

The entire process is moving faster than anticipated. "We did some quick planning and made some quick decisions," said Piccola. "The community has been very supportive and volunteers from faculty and staff as well as the community and the professionals that we've hired as consultants, our architecture firm, engineering firm and the contractors have just all worked really hard to make sure that we are ready to go."

Piccola says volunteers from both the faculty and the community have helped out big time. "We had a couple of days where we had a couple of dozen volunteers who helped move the waterlogged materials out of the area and go through them," said Piccola. "The courtyard was heavily mudded and they cleaned up all the mud and trimmed the shrubbery and debris and returned it back so that we could use it."

"If you would have asked me back in June if we were going to open up on time for school in September, I had my doubts, but there's no question in my mind that we are going to open now and there will be no safety or hazards that we have to worry about," said Piccola.