At the outset, Monday night’s much-anticipated Bridgeville Planning Commission meeting seemed like a letdown.
The borough’s environmental consultant, Carolyn Yagle, would not be on-hand to discuss a how radically altering the Baldwin Street/Bower Hill Road corridor could reduce the area’s flood risk. Bridgeville has paid Yagle’s firm, Environmental Planning & Design, more than $20,000 to date.
“We were informed she was to be here tonight. As you can see, she is not,” said planning commission chairman McCans, flashing an expression of annoyance to councilmembers in attendance.
But then, McCans provided perhaps the most straightforward, easy-to-understand summary of what would be a complex and costly plan to reduce Bridgeville’s flood risk:
It involves removing the northern side of Baldwin Street as we now know it. All of those properties, content, and land would be turned into a holding pond of sorts. McLaughlin Creek as we know it would be reconfigured to add more esses to hold more water…
At the same time, Bower Hill Road would be reconfigured… and Baldwin Street as we know it would go away. There would be a roundabout in front of PJ’s Deli, where Pro-Tech Auto Glass is. It would circle through Bruce’s Auto, go on down Baldwin as we know it, circle to the Beer Warehouse and go to another roundabout near Silhol’s…
The creek would be deepened, dredged, essed, etc…
The southern side of Baldwin would be opened for redevelopment down the road. First, the north side would be a short-term project, with the southern side being a long-term project.
In theory, this could go a long way toward addressing Bridgeville’s flood problem.
But the borough would have to clear some significant financial hurdles to make this happen.
Recent estimates peg the construction costs at $30 million. That’s 10-times more than Bridgeville’s annual operating budget.
Even if the borough was able to secure that funding, there is still the cost of acquiring property. Bridgeville would not suddenly force residents out of their homes, said council president Mike Tolmer.
Rather, the most likely scenario would have the borough buying properties in that area as they become available. After June’s eight-foot flood, some residents indicated that they would welcome the opportunity to relocate.
Former mayor Pat DeBlasio Jr. asked Bridgeville officials to re-approach FEMA about establishing a program that helps the borough buy properties from owners eager to sell.
There are many more questions to be answered regarding fair selling prices, assessed values versus market values, and so on.
The overarching question, though, is whether any of this can become reality in a near-future timeline, given the massive cost and the limited resources currently available.
With the key environmental consultant a no-show on Monday—and with borough manager Lori Collins out sick—DeBlasio asked the planning commission to expedite its next meeting rather than wait until its regularly scheduled session at the end of August.
Chairman McCans said he was open to moving the date if all of the required parties could attend.
Here is the full, 40-minute meeting video: