September Flooding Will Have Impact on 2012
By D.C. Koviack
At Tuesday’s Wyoming County Commissioners’ meeting, the topic of discussion was the floods of September and how the cleanup and relocation of affected families will impact the county well into next year. Cleanup from the flood has cost the county $125,000 so far. Although 75 percent of that will eventually be reimbursed by FEMA, county officials said Tuesday that they would not be surprised if it were late in 2012 before the county saw that payment. The remaining 25 percent is supposed to be reimbursed by PEMA, the state’s emergency management agency. However, this has not been confirmed, and the county may never see state reimbursement for that amount.
Meanwhile, the $125,000 has come out of the county’s general fund, which directly affects next year’s budget. Although all departments’ budgets are in, it is not sure that they are all in their final form, as some further cuts may be requested in case the county needs to pay for more cleanup and other costs associated with flood recovery. Additionally, the county’s real estate tax revenue, responsible for about 60 percent of the yearly budget revenue, will take a hit from the lowered and in some cases eliminated value of properties.
“We won't know for about another month,” noted County Administrator Bill Gaylord. Representatives from FEMA are in the county now assessing damage. Several residents have either relocated outside the county permanently or are in temporary housing. Especially in hard-hit Forkston Township as well as in Meshoppen, Mehoopany, Laceyville and Eaton, creeks such as the Tuscarora, Meshoppen, Mehoopany and Bowman’s are in urgent need of attention.
The Army Corps of Engineers will be viewing the damage and delineating potential work projects this Thursday. “We are trying to pull together as much aid as we can,” commented County EMA Director Gene Dziak. It is possible the ACE will work on streams, bridges and roadways in conjunction with state and local agencies.
Also, the commissioners learned that the Medical Assistance Transportation Program will be cut by nearly 50 percent next year, down from $94,000 to $54,000. “That’s going to be a real hardship,” noted Commissioner Judy Mead. The MATP serves residents on medical assistance and assists them in getting to doctors’ appointments and scheduled treatments.
Finally, the commissioners honored local artist Sue Hand for her new painting, “Tunkhannock Jazz Festival,” recently hung in the courthouse lobby. The painting, whose subtitle is “A Season for Every Activity Under Heaven” celebrates the jazz festival held for 45 years at the courthouse gazebo; the festival concluded its run last year. Hand and members of the Courthouse Art Gallery committee were present for the presentation of a Certificate of Recognition. The Courthouse Art Gallery was begun 15 years ago by Wyoming County resident Marta Kovacs-Ruiz. “It’s been very popular and successful,” Kovacs-Ruiz noted, adding that about 300 pieces of art have been sold since the gallery’s start. “I have had great help, and I could never, ever have done it otherwise.”
The gallery features a changing display of art by local painters and mounts new exhibits about every two months. Much of the art displayed is for sale; the gallery charges no commission and it is believed to be one of the few county courthouse art galleries in the nation.