BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Common Council is still pushing the mayor's office to establish a city emergency management director to help coordinate response and planning for events and disasters.
This comes in the wake of the Christmas weekend blizzard which paralyzed city emergency services.
Some of that situation was due to the ferocity of the storm but council members also feel the city could more efficiently prepare with equipment, supplies, and staffers to better handle those kinds of situations.
Council Majority Leader David Rivera from the North District said, "I believe all the council members are asking that the Mayor submit to us a budget amendment for an emergency manager. We need to have that person in place like yesterday to make sure we're prepared for any event, any tragedy, any disaster...flooding, hurricane, blizzard that may come in the future. I think we need to move on this fairly quickly."
Sources said the council and mayor's office are discussing the idea of creating two positions for an emergency management director and a separate fleet manager to cover city vehicles as Mayor Brown had originally suggested.
But the mayor's spokesman says the fire commissioner already handles that emergency role in a collaborative way and has no further comment on the council's plan.
We have heard that some of our political leaders were seeking out help from Albany and Washington to help with storm removal costs for local communities but now some are sharing concerns with storm damage for individual homeowners.
Buffalo City Council members spoke about some constituents who are seeing repair issues and damage in their homes from burst water pipes that froze without power for heat or other problems like soggy asbestos which must be taken out. There have also been cases of water seeping down walls from accumulated snow which blew into attics and then melted.
And while insurance is handling some problems, Rivera says many other residents may be out of luck as they try to collect on their policies. "You file a claim, you gotta pay the deductible. There are certain things that the adjuster says we won't cover and so that's a hardship for many people. They just experienced a blizzard and damage to their property. So we're hopeful that our state representatives, our national representatives - Schumer, Gillibrand, and Brian Higgins would go back to FEMA and say hey we need additional aid for the City of Buffalo."
We are reaching out as well to the offices of U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to see if they have heard anything about their announced efforts back on January 4 to seek an actual disaster declaration from the White House to open up more funding from FEMA and even the Small Business Administration.
Even though Senator Schumer told us that as far as eligibility goes blizzards are just like hurricanes or other disasters such as we have seen in California. But other officials say they have actually heard the response that the snow melts and thus damage issues may not be as serious. We'll see how Washington responds this time.