WEST PITTSTON – Looking to wrap up buyout proceedings for homes destroyed during the 2011 Tropical Storm Lee flooding, borough council approved an agreement Tuesday with Brozena Consulting Services, former county Flood Protection Agency Director Jim Brozena’s company.
Borough Manager Savino Bonita said that rather than re-invent the wheel, council members agreed to use Brozena’s services because, as part of his tenure with the county, he was already handling the borough’s case.
Bonita said five homes in the borough have been approved for buyouts with $1.119 million allotted from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. He said buyouts of four more homes are pending approval for additional money.
Brozena said he is working with eight municipalities on issues related to the 2011 flood. Federal and state emergency funds are allowed to cover his time, so his services are of no expense to the borough.
Brozena, who retired from his county post in January, said at this time he has no employees or partners, but he will work to expedite the transfer of funds to property owners as well as oversee demolition and cleanup of the destroyed homes.
“We’re looking to move these along as quickly as we can,” he said.
Brozena lauded FEMA and PEMA for working in unison to streamline the buyout process.
FEMA standards say that buyout proceedings following these types of natural disasters usually last about three years. Just about 18 months after flood waters destroyed property in West Pittston, Bonita said he expects buyouts to be completed within the year.
Bonita said the property owners have not received the government buyout money yet, but for the properties already approved, owners first need to sign agreements to get the ball rolling.
After demolition is complete, Brozena said, the properties will belong to the borough with a clause in their deeds that states no permanent structures are to be built, ever. He said it will be up to the borough to decide what to put on the properties.
In other business:
• Council approved an agreement with Ashburn Advisers to oversee recovery funds disbursement from the county’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program for the borough’s flood recovery project. Ashburn also will manage funds from the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development for infrastructure improvements in the business district.
• Council approved a three-year lease/purchase option for a fully-equipped 2013 Ford utility police interceptor to cost a total of $32,000.
• West Pittston Library is to receive a $500,000 Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund grant.