Wyalusing Township To Conduct Mass Clean-Up on Thursday
By Rick Hiduk
Camptown was well-represented at the Sept. 13 Wyalusing Township meeting. Many in attendance voiced their concerns on a range of topics, but mostly about the flooding issues that have plagued the village for the past decade.
Chairman Marvin Meteer announced that Southwestern Energy has offered to assist the township with a one-day debris pick-up, which will be on Thursday, Sept. 15. The rapid scheduling of the clean-up is due to a limited window of opportunity for county residents to get their flood junk to Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority’s landfill at PEMA’s expense.
Residents are asked to pile flood-debris only at their curbs or at the side of the public road closest to them by late Wednesday or early Thursday morning. Township staffers and supervisors will help direct the event to ensure that as many residents as possible are reached by the energy company’s bulldozers and dump trucks. Supervisors acknowledged that Camptown in particular will be a tight squeeze because many homes are close to the roads. They lamented that recovery efforts seemed to be slow in coming to the area, and suggested that state representatives were overlooking the area and paying much more attention to Athens and Sayre, which have larger populations and a similar scope of damage.
Most of the Camptown residents were at the township building for a specific reason, and they were not shy about expressing their dissatisfaction with the supervisors for, what they implied, was a general lack of knowledge about the basic operation of the various agencies that Meteer was attributing most of the slow response to. There was a general agreement that this washover affected Camptown like no other flooding event before it, and residents contended that most of the damage could have been prevented if discussions in the spring about the township corroborating with the various agencies that control facets of stream-control in the area had been more productive.
Meteer expressed doubts that having had the stream realigned prior to recent heavy rains would have made a significant difference. He reminded the often-boisterous group that the area as a whole has experienced an unprecedented weather event, and there have been countless extreme washouts across Bradford County alone and certainly in other parts of Wyalusing Township. Meteer detailed major damage to structures and roadways in the Route 6 East business district, Homets Ferry, and an area along the Wyalusing Creek and Bowling Alley Road.
“We are here representing Camptown,” resident Don Detrick declared. “If there are issues from other areas, then they should be here representing themselves. Where are the people from Homets Ferry?” If there was anybody in attendance from the riverside village, they kept the fact to themselves.
Both the attendees and supervisors expressed surprise to learn that PennDOT employees had cleared stone and debris on Tuesday, after waters receded, just north of the small bridge over Sandt’s Creek on Route 409 that clogs frequently during heavy rains. There was little disagreement that the agency’s effort seemed too-little, too-late and a bit of an insult. In effect, it was. Meteer pulled a letter from a manila envelope that detailed PennDOT’s plans dated Aug. 16 that announce that they would soon be in the area to clear a small amount of debris from that channel. It appeared, Meteer implied, that they had done just that.
He also announced that at least two additional non-related streambed projects will be started in the next month, including Sandt’s Creek from Route 409 to Church Street, which made the residents ask the supervisors about the possibility of contacting the agencies or the contractors involved with the planned improvement projects and asking them to extend their projects via any available grants or even at the expense of the taxpayers.
Meteer’s explanation of the inability of state government to keep up with the crisis seemed to touch a nerve with several members of the crowd who had been on the phone and exchanging emails with representatives from numerous state agencies over the previous few days. They related a bevy of information, some of which couldn’t be confirmed on the spot, but that clearly indicated that this bunch of frustrated citizens had breached the supervisors’ relationships with the Pennsylvania DEP, PennDOT, and other agencies key to their endeavor. Meteer acknowledged and expressed frustration that the Camptown crusaders appeared to be much better informed than the commissioners.
Despite Meteer’s attempts to dissuade the Camptown crowd, the meeting became quite charged, and it was soon difficult to keep up with simultaneous conversations between the citizens, Meteer and his wife, Maxine, and township Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Kneller, who appeared a little bewildered by the public firestorm, as he had come to share information about filing flood claims with PEMA.
Deb Stethers suggested that the community—residents and supervisors—could cooperate to get the agencies lined up to satisfy their requests. She also supported a popular idea that, once the overwash problem is fixed in Camptown, the township might budget for maintenance just as the school district, for which she serves as a board member, has to do. Detrick and others were persistent, however, in their goal to obtain a commitment from the supervisors to direct serious attention and all available resources to the issue.
Shortly before the group grew wary of the meeting and exited en masse, Detrick agreed to serve as the citizens’ liaison to the supervisors while both the board members and the Camptown citizens amass support and try to find direction in a clearly difficult battle to make the most of available funds and resources while the proper equipment and supplies seem to be available and while there is a significant amount of focus by the state on the area. Email addresses were exchanged, and Camptown-area residents may send an email to Detrick@epix.net to learn more about how they can be involved with the efforts of the citizens.
Camptown resident Patty Otis, who lives along Sandt’s Creek and has literally been pumping her basement since March, endorsed the plan and encouraged everyone involved to avoid giving up and taking matters into their own hands. “We don’t want this to pit neighbor against neighbor,” she stated.
Before most of the meeting participants departed, Kneller announced that every resident who planned to register and seek assistance with flood damage must call FEMA at (800) 621-3362 to secure an incident number. No federal funds will be distributed to flood victims who do not begin their relief application at that stage. He also later requested and gained approval of a request to retain an emergency declaration for the township through Sunday, Sept. 18, which he said had been endorsed by the county and gives the township the authority to close portions of roads as necessary to perform recovery and restoration efforts.
The approval of bills-to-be-paid was being read as the Camptown residents departed. It was followed by the approval of some annual contracts and a request from the Greater Wyalusing Chamber of Commerce for endorsement from the Wyalusing Triathlon committee to start and end their annual event from Wyalusing Valley High School, which is in the township. Chesapeake Energy requested approval to move an impending access road 1,000 feet from where it was initially planned, which was approved, as was the continued use of a storage shed behind the township building to Cargill.
One township resident stayed late to inquire about the progress of getting new road name signs, since the name of his road changed due to 911 re-addressing, and he’s having trouble directing Fed-Ex to his home. Marvin Meteer related that the signs were in the possession of the township, but the manpower has not been available as of late to install them. The resident, formerly of Cross Road, offered to install the sign himself but was told by Meteer that there are regulations involved with installation that the resident would likely not be able to satisfy.