Township To Assist PSB, Push For FEMA Action
By Rick Hiduk
Wyalusing Township Supervisors voted unanimously to lease a portion of the lower floor of the township building along Route 6 to Peoples State Bank (PSB) to provide the local financial institution with a safe haven for paper files that can no longer be stored in a flood plain. During their Oct. 4 monthly meeting, the supervisors also expressed frustration that help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and several state agencies has been slow to arrive. Due to the delay in response, there is no remedy yet for long-term closures of two roads that were severely damaged by the late summer storms.
Township secretary and PSB employee Maxine Meteer introduced the rental proposal to the supervisors. She related that bank officials had assessed the site and deemed it suitable, but significant modifications will be needed to ready the room for its new use. PSB will cover the costs of all structural changes, which will include running electricity to the area that will be used for storage, as well as installing a security system. PSB will also carry an insurance policy on the rented space, which is currently all but empty.
Mrs. Meteer suggested drawing up a one-year, renewable lease and charging the bank $800 per month plus the cost of utilities. She reminded the supervisors that they would reserve the option to make changes in the lease after 12 months or choose to dissolve the arrangement altogether at that time if they are not satisfied with how things work out. The motion was approved with little conversation.
Township chairman Marvin Meteer announced that township roadmaster Jerry Coooley had completed emergency flood repairs of several key roads and replaced several washed out drainage pipes. Records of the expense in terms of time and materials have been kept, but a total cost for the work, which will be submitted for potential disaster relief funds, has not yet been calculated.
Of greater concern to the supervisors were two routes through the township that have not yet been reopened, in addition to channel projects in Camptown that the supervisors agreed need to be addressed before the area receives any more significant rainfall. Meteer invited PennDOT officials to visit the sites in question with him to provide estimates on the cost of the repair of each.
Addressing the problems associated with streams that channel runoff from the far side of Camptown, through the village and into Wyalusing Creek, will likely cost about $50,000. The price tag for securing the banks of Billings Creek and making Billings Creek Road passable was set at $12,440. Channel clearance and replacement of a chain link fence adjacent to the playground and walking bridge was priced at $6,000. The most involved and costliest project—one that Camptown residents have been clamoring for all year—would be the dredging of Sandts Creek above the Church Street bridge. That task alone will probably run about $31,374, Marvin related.
The most costly undertakings are the needed repairs to both approaches to the span over the creek at County Bridge Road, which was estimated at $50,000, and the reconstruction of Bowling Alley Road from Valley View Road to Turkey Path Road, the cost of which could reach $500,000.
Wyalusing Township does not have the money, time, or equipment needed to complete all of the repairs mentioned in Meteer’s report, but he suggested that PennDOT’s involvement and professional assessments should make it easier for FEMA to act on the issues. For each project that is approved, Meteer noted, FEMA generally pays 75 percent of the cost, and the state picks up the rest of the expense.
“We’re eager to see the FEMA people down here,” Meteer stated, noting that he has been in regular contact with the Bradford County Commissioners and Sen. Pat Toomey’s office to press the issue. It was hoped that Toomey or a senior staff member from his office might visit Wyalusing on Wednesday afternoon.
“If we don’t keep this in front of these people, it’s easy to be forgotten,” Meteer remarked. “We need to remind these people that we have had significant damage here.” Meteer acknowledged that the Athens area was devastated by the flood and therefore caught most of the attention of FEMA and other agencies, but he expressed concern that some of the 20 businesses east of Wyalusing Borough might not be able to reopen and recover without federal assistance. “At this point, (recovery) is totally at their expense,” said Meteer, who added that he welcomes any mitigation that can get the process in motion.
Meteer also acknowledged that many area streams need to be deepened and massive amounts of debris need to be removed, a responsibility in which he and the Bradford County Commissioners hope PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will take a more active role now and in the future. In the meantime, the township is easing permit restrictions to allow landowners more access to streams to remove large trees and other debris that threaten their respective properties.
Prior to bringing the meeting to a close, Meteer thanked township emergency management director Larry Kneller for the many hours that he has already dedicated to flood recovery efforts, including the coordination of a mass cleanup conducted on Sept. 15 by representatives from Southwestern Energy. He noted that Kneller also personally assisted many homeowners in both Wyalusing and Wilmot Townships in cleaning out their homes and providing food. Meteer extended gratitude as well to Jerry Cooley and the many township residents who set aside their personal needs during the crucial days during and following the flood to help those who were truly in dire straits.
“That’s what a community is all about,” said Meteer.