Tourism up, hardship remains in Penn Yan
Updated: Friday, July 18 2014, 07:35 AM EDT
Pen Yan, N.Y. - Two months after two devastating floods, Penn Yan is packed with tourists and the village’s downtown, one of the hardest hit areas, is nearly back to its picturesque self.
“Bottom line is it’s vibrant, things are wide open and we’re having a ball,” President and CEO of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, Mike Linehan said the local economy relies on tourism and the floods have actually attracted more visitors than usual.
Linhan said, “It was really funny to be on the street and to chat with them because they’d say it doesn’t look that bad and it didn’t—we got put back together pretty quickly.”
To the visitors who come and go from the lake and downtown, everything looks great but tucked away on the side streets are some families that are still struggling.
“There is no help coming from FEMA, there is no help coming in from the state, there is no help coming from insurance, there is no help coming from the housing authority,” said Bruce Kerrick.
After 17 years on Champlin Street, Kerrick and his wife Marianne went from homeowners to homeless overnight— the floods in mid-May destroyed their home.
“We lost more than a home, I mean we lost our home; we lost all of our valuables we lost everything we built for 29 years together with our three children,” Kerrick said.
Now, two months after the floods, the family of five and their two dogs are squeezed into a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom house. Still, it’s much bigger than the camper that the family moved into right after the flood because there were not enough places to put displaced families.
Linehan said, “We didn't have a big housing stock to begin with so when you displace 17 to 20 families, you know, where do you put them?”
Thanks to a friend, the Kerricks were able to move into a home that’s up for sale—but the day the moved in, a buyer put in an offer on the house. “It’s not ours, it’s basically a loaner house,” Kerrick said they can stay there until the end of August—that’s when the new owner moves in.
It’ll be their third move since the flood and wherever they go, it will be temporary.
Kerrick said he doesn’t know if they’ll ever be able to return to their house on Chamlin Street. “It's not condemned but it's been tagged inhabitable…I don't know what the difference is.”
The difference is, if it was condemned--the Kerricks wouldn't have to make mortgage payments on a house they can’t live in.
“We still owe 13 years on the house, you know they're like just keep making your payments or we'll turn you into the credit bureau.”
A $200,000 policy, the Kerrick had flood insurance but the company denied their claim. “Neither one of them will cover anything because they said it was surface water, it wasn’t a flood.”
8.5 feet of water flooded the first floor of their home—everything on the ground floor, in the basement and the six cars parked outside were destroyed. Repair estimates are more than three times the value of the home and that’s what is was worth before the flood.
Kerrick said, “Just the house alone was estimated at $111,000 just to put the house back to the way it was— where do you start with $10,000?” That’s the maximum amount of money homeowners could get from the state. It can only be used for repairs, not to relocate and to add insult to injury that grant money requires flood insurance—the same policy that didn’t pay them a penny. Kerrick said the coverage would be the same but the price of their yearly premium was quoted around $2,500, far from the $370 they paid before the floods.
The Kerricks said there doesn’t seem to be a way to get back on their feet. “We don’t know, we live every morning to get up and go to work and figure out what are we going to do next.”
Lawyers and lenders recommended the couple declare bankruptcy and start over but the community is coming together to help.
Friends organized a fundraiser for the family on Saturday, July 19 at the Benton Fire Department. A silent auction, there will be entertainment and food and drinks. The event starts at 3 p.m. and tickets will be available at the door, $15 for a single and $25 for a couple.