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Tensions rising in Oneida as water begins to recede

By ANDREW DONOVAN

ONEIDA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Residents in Oneida are frustrated as they continue to wait to be allowed back in their homes, many still under feet of water.

Acting Mayor Max Smith held a meeting in front of city hall on Main Street to update the public on the ongoing situation. Smith says the city is still under a state of emergency and that the priority remains the public's imminent safety.

Electricity and gas still running to the properties are officials' biggest concern. They say once those utilities are turned off, the water is removed from the street and the homes are determined to be structurally sound, then residents will be allowed into the closed areas.

Residents had previously been able to leave their cell phone number and address so they could be notified when their roads were reopened. Those people will be given wrist bands so it can easily be identified who is supposed to be in each neighborhood.

Another concern of some residents is the status of dyke in the Oneida Creek, where the record cresting caused the significant flooding.

Resident Clayton Kimball said, "I've got to believe that some of the modifications made, cutting trees, allowed compromise, allowing water to get through."

Mayor Smith personally investigated the dyke, along with the city engineer, both of whom insist the structure is sound.

The question still to be answered is if the modifications known as clear-cutting helped or hurt the flood levels.

Another concern brought up at the meeting was the status of FEMA, some claiming they should already be on site. Congressman Richard Hanna attended the meeting, saying that he knows FEMA will respond quickly once the federal disaster declaration clears the threshold.

Some residents were heated towards Mayor Smith, but he assures them that he feels for them. Smith said, "I take this responsibility to help you, to do the best that I can do to assist you. And we will continue to do that. I ask for your patience and understanding."

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