Luzerne County’s community development office has unveiled a plan to spend $10 million in federal flood recovery funding on infrastructure projects in several municipalities.
Most of the remaining $15.4 million is expected to fund an estimated 90 residential buyouts, county Community Development Director Andrew Reilly said Friday.
The money was earmarked to fix lingering damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 that wasn’t covered by flood insurance or government funding. County Council is slated to vote on the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.
West Pittston will receive the largest portion of the infrastructure allocation — $3.8 million — for a mix of sewer, sidewalk, drainage, traffic signal and lighting repairs in the section most damaged by flooding when the Susquehanna River rose to a record height in September 2011.
Shickshinny is second on the list, with the proposed receipt of $2.8 million for roadway, sidewalk, storm drainage and pump station repairs from North Main Street to the Susquehanna. Borough Mayor Beverly Moore said the river’s rise and retreat in September 2011 undermined infrastructure, leaving roadways uneven and full of potholes.
“This is absolutely wonderful — fantastic. We’re a small town and don’t have the resources to address these needs,” Moore said.
Other towns benefit
Plymouth Township was recommended to receive $534,400 to rehabilitate West Poplar Street, Jessie Road and Pavlick Hill Road.
Township Supervisor Joe Yudichak said the municipality restored the berms and guide rails along Pavlick Hill and Jessie roads but had no money to pave them or address damage on West Poplar.
“We have them open, but they’re really in dire need of resurfacing,” he said. “We’re thankful. If we can get these projects done, we’ll be back to 100 percent pre-flood conditions as far as infrastructure.”
The township’s request for $276,000 in funding for Coal Street repairs and Pittston’s application for $1.5 million in downtown stormwater and infrastructure improvements were rejected by the county because the damage wasn’t directly linked to the Irene or Lee disasters, Reilly said.
The county’s review panel also recommends $205,300 for Nanticoke to remove excessive vegetation, debris and sediment from the south branch of Newport Creek to improve the flow and prevent flooding of homes.
City Manager Pamela Heard said residents regularly impacted by creek flooding will celebrate the work. “It’s a really expensive problem to correct, and we’re very pleased if we can get the grant and remedy the situation,” Heard said.
Removal of a deteriorating railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna River in Exeter Township also is on the funding roster for $614,600. Officials fear the bridge, owned by Leo Glodzik, of LAG Towing in Duryea, could collapse and create a dam on the river.
The remaining projects on the list:
• Wilkes-Barre, $191,670 to repair a sagging sewer line on Old River Road that causes sewage backup in structures.
• County Redevelopment Authority, $134,000 to fix remaining flood damage of a 1,900-square-foot portion of the West Pittston headquarters. The authority plans to lease the space to obtain revenue to help cover operating expenses.
• Luzerne County, $1.4 million to repair county-owned Tunnel Road in Dennison and Wright townships.
• Hunlock Township, $300,000 to resurface Roaring Brook Drive.
Recipients of funding had to apply and undergo a review process by a team that included four employees and Luzerne Foundation Executive Director Charles Barber.
Some officials have complained about delays awarding the funding, but Reilly said he had to ensure all other funding streams had been exhausted by applicants because the county funding was supposed to be a last resort. To illustrate his point, his report to council shows $1.2 million in funding from other sources was obtained for six projects seeking county funding.
Reilly said he must obtain additional information from municipalities before seeking council approval for the buyout portion of the program. Buyouts were added to the plans because the federal government recently issued a notice strongly discouraging spending of the recovery funding on residential redevelopment in flood zones.
The owners of at least 40 properties that flooded in September 2011 have been removed from the current Federal Emergency Management Agency buyout project because they are not in high-risk zones on new flood maps.