Frustrated and tired, nearly 50 Bridgeville flood victims packed into borough council chambers Monday night.
Some residents and businessowners asked questions. Others vented at public officials. A few people proposed solutions to issues that contributed to the June 20 flood that killed one person and impacted 126 residences and 48 businesses.
By the end of the raucous 2-hour meeting (video above) however, the overarching message was clear—little is certain right now.
Financial Assistance: What We Know
- Pennsylvania has no disaster relief fund to help people in Bridgeville or anywhere else in the state.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has several programs that could offer financial assistance to residents, businessowners, and the borough government.
- But for FEMA to help, the total uninsured losses across the state must reach $18.1 million.
- When FEMA calculates the damage, it is not certain whether the agency will only count the floods of June 20, or if FEMA will include other recent floods, like those in Millvale and Etna last weekend.
- Even if FEMA declared a disaster today, residents would not see money for many weeks, if not months.
- FEMA grants are not a financial windfall. FEMA’s individual assistance program is capped at $34,000 per household, but most flood victims receive far less money.
- Low-interest federal loans could become available for hard-hit residents or businessowners. These carry maximums of $200,000 for damaged real estate and $40,000 to replace personal property, according to Reuters.
- In the meantime, Brentwood Bank is offering local flood victims small loans based on personal credit history.
- A flood relief fundraiser at Bar 31 raised nearly $5,000 this past weekend, and more money is expected from upcoming events like the July 28 comedy night at the firehall. It is still unknown how that money will be distributed to the public.
What Should Residents Do Next?
- Report any flood-related losses. As the region tries to reach FEMA’s $18.1 million “magic number,” any resident, businessowner, or propertyowner who suffered a loss that is not covered by flood insurance should visit the borough building to file a claim. The amount of your loss will count toward the FEMA total.
- Keep an eye on the Bridgeville’s official Facebook page. Borough officials have been posting new information to Facebook at it becomes available, including where to get food, clothing, furniture, and other assistance.
- If you have a friend or neighbor who does not have the internet or Facebook, keep them informed.
- Keep track of your U.S. mail. Borough manager Lori Collins has contact information for Bridgeville residents and businessowners impacted by the floods and will mail hard copies of any important forms, documents, etc.
How Will Bridgeville Address Its Flooding Problem?
Like so much else, it is too soon to say what concrete measures the borough will take to address the flooding issue. There are lots of ideas out there, though.
- On Monday, July 30, the Bridgeville Planning Commission is expected to discuss a proposal to alleviate flooding by radically altering the Baldwin Street/Bower Hill Road corridor. This plan, commissioned two years ago by council, could be an effective flood deterrent, but could also be extraordinarily expensive.
- At the most recent council meeting, former Mayor Pat DeBlasio asked borough officials to consider acquiring property from residents who want to leave Baldwin Street. “People are trapped,” he said. “Not trapped by water at the moment, but trapped in properties that they cannot get out of. If they sell them to someone else it just means someone else is trapped in a property in a flood zone.”
- DeBlasio also asked council to rescind its $488,000 contribution toward a road-widening project slated for 2020 and instead use the money to address flooding issues. Traffic is a regional problem and could realistically attract additional state of federal funding, he said, but when it comes to floods, “Bridgeville has to take care of Bridgeville.”
- Borough officials want to install devices at the bottom of McLaughlin Run Creek—trashc racks—that could help prevent debris from clogging storm and sanitary sewers. First, however, Bridgeville must submit additional plans to a regional agency that oversees sewer issues
- Resident John Rattenni asked council to create a set of committees that could help Bridgeville more quickly clear bureaucratic hurdles and contribute to flood alleviation plans for both the near- and long-term. “If it rains tomorrow, we’re back to dealing with this again,” he said.
- Resident Bob Fryer revisited a 1980 evaluation of Bridgeville’s infrastructure and suggested changes to the Baldwin Street corridor.