Ridgway’s Senior Center, located on Vine Avenue, is slowly but surely recovering after taking on roughly three feet of water during last month’s devastating flood. After losing much of what was inside, including just under three feet of the bottom portion of its inner walls, things are beginning to come together.
“We’re down here working, and hopefully next week our breakfast club will be able to start up again,” said executive director Harry Himes.
The center is beginning to replace some of the items lost in order to become fully operational.
Among the damaged items were many of the things they regularly use such as 100 folding chairs and bingo equipment, many of the kitchen items and the lower kitchen cupboards themselves, along with a lawnmower and several pieces of furniture.
“We really don’t have a timeline, we’re getting things to where we can use the center and as we get money and things like that we’ll just be doing things as we go along, but we’re going to be staying open, yes," reported Himes. “We lost the organ, we lost our piano and tons and tons of files that were waterlogged.”
“We’re getting necessities, you know, getting our kitchen and restrooms in working order,” he said.
Cleanup has been a steady process down at the senior center as removing the damaged items before cleanup and reconstruction was one of the first steps.
“They took out eight dump truck loads of stuff,” he said.
Assistance for the center, as well as for many other Ridgway businesses, is still foggy.
“That we don’t know,” said Himes. “We haven’t heard from anybody yet.”
The center, however, has reportedly filed for federal assistance.
Other businesses around town have been busy applying for assistance as well, many of which have gone to the federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) who had representatives posted at the Elk County Emergency Services Building, located on Montmorenci Avenue near North Central starting Tuesday.
Two representatives from the agency will reportedly be available to aid in the assistance application process for low-interest loans until Wednesday, June 18. Although the loan application can also be completed online, representatives are available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11 through Wednesday, June 18 and will also be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, June 14.
Ridgway’s deadlines for applications are Aug. 4 for physical damage and March 5, 2015 for economic injury. However, the SBA is accepting applications from individuals as well as business owners.
Interest rates vary depending on individuals’ ability to receive credit elsewhere. However, according to SBA representative George Eyrich, “most people” would be considered under the “no credit available elsewhere” category.
Those with credit unavailable elsewhere are currently being offered rates of 2.1888 percent for a home loan, four percent for business loans and 2.625 percent for a non-profit loan.
Those with other sources of credit available to them would be considered under the following rates: 4.375 percent for home loan, 6 percent for a business loan and 2.625 percent for a non-profit organization loan.
According to information made available by the SBA, things considered include credit history, repayment ability and collateral stating that “collateral is required for physical loss loans over $14,000 and EIDL (economic injury) loans over $25,000.”
Real estate, when available, is considered a viable source of collateral. However, “SBA will not decline a loan for lack of collateral, but requires you to pledge what is available.”
Other businesses around town have yet to fully reopen including Rite Aid, which recently opened the door to the pharmacy portion of its store on May 30. However, according to Kristin Kellum, PR specialist for Rite Aid, they "expect to reopen our store in full capacity by mid-summer."
“We are committed to the community and look forward to fully operating in the near future,” she said.
Another aspect of the flooding having to do with East Branch Dam is reportedly a moot point.
Water from East Branch Lake was discharged into the Clarion River but officials argue it made little difference in the flooding disaster. The output reportedly would only account for one percent of the floodwater in Ridgway-- less than half an inch of additional water according to Werner Loehlein, Water Management Branch chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Loehlein said had dam officials conducted a minimum opening of the dam during the storm, it only would have reduced the crest in Ridgway by a mere inch.