Pine Barn Inn Hosts Holiday Charity Buffet

The Pine Barn Inn has always been known in our area for its rustic feel, delicious food, and excellent service. This holiday season the Inn and its staff will also be known for something more: generosity, kindness, and concern.

On Saturday 24 December, from 11 AM to 3 PM the Pine Barn Inn will host a free buffet for not only victims of the September flooding, but for all people in the local community who may find themselves in need. Reservations are highly recommended due to limited seating.

Pine Barn Inn General Manager Norman Mael explained that he took inspiration for this event from a similar experience when he worked at the Hotel Magee in Bloomsburg. “I believe this is the first event of this kind, but when I was working at the Hotel Magee we had a Bartenders’ Night Out for charity. I got the idea from that.”

Mr. Mael emphasized that this Christmas Eve Day lunch buffet is a charity event sponsored by the entire staff of the Pine Barn. “Everybody is donating their own time, contributing to help prepare and serve.”

“The employees, everybody thinks this is an excellent idea,” said Mr. Mael. “It really hits home for them to help out. One of our servers just returned to his home [a victim of the recent flooding]. They’re behind this.”

Mr. Mael also noted that this Charity Buffet is not only for flood victims, however, but for anyone or any family that may find themselves in need this time of year. “Someone who lost his job, has an uncertain future,” said Mr. Mael, “it’s not for me to determine who should be helped.”

At present The Pine Barn Inn has taken over 200 reservations for the event and still has room for about 150 more.

This Holiday Buffet is offered at no charge and will be held on 24 December from 11 AM to 3PM. Reservations are Highly Recommended because seating is limited.

If you wish to make reservations, please contact the Pine Barn Inn in Danville at 570-275-2071.

Details and a Full Menu of the buffet can be found on The Bloomsburg Daily’s Event Calendar or at the Pine Barn Inn website.

Town Announces Public Meeting on Flood Buyouts

Bloomsburg SignBloomsburg Town Administrator Carol Mas issued a press release this morning announcing that an informational meeting will be held on Wednesday 23 November at 5:30PM in the Town Hall’s Council Chambers for Town residents interested in participating in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). This meeting follows up on the presentation FEMA made to the Town Council on Monday night.

All residents interested in possibly participating in the HGMP program, or who are curious about its requirements, scope, and limitations, are encouraged to attend.

The complete text of the press release follows:

PUBLIC INFORMATION SESSION
HAZARD MITIGATION GRANT PROGRAM

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 @ 5:30pm

Those residents that have suffered substantial damage to their homes due to Tropical Storm Lee and are interested in being acquired through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program are asked to attend a public information session in Council Chambers on second floor of Town Hall on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 5:30pm. The requirements of the program will be presented and the paperwork for voluntary participation will be distributed.

Town Hall
301 E. Second Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815-1870
Phone: (570) 784-7123
Receptionist: (570) 784-7703
Fax: (570) 784-1518

Hours of Operation:
8:00am to 4:30pm, Monday-Friday

FEMA Addresses Bloom Council on Buyouts

Representatives from FEMA addressed the Bloomsburg Town Council last night, reviewing the particulars of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and stressing that people who wish to apply for Acquisition (commonly referred to as Buyouts) should do so quickly. The deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent/Pre-Application has been extended to Wednesday, 30 November. The Application packet submission deadline has been extended as well, to Friday, 30 December.

The Letter of Intent/Pre-Application form can be downloaded from The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. This is a direct link to PEMA’s downloadable PDF of the Letter of Intent.

In light of the deadline extension, Mayor Dan Knorr suggested that a meeting be held with interested Town residents early next week. No date has been set at the moment, but it will likely be held next Tuesday or Wednesday. The Bloomsburg Daily will update this article as soon as that information on the time and place of the meeting becomes available. Update, 16 November: The meeting will be held on Wednesday 23 November at 5:30PM in the Town Hall’s Council Chambers.

FEMA representative Michael Vath stated that 75% of the funding would come from the Federal government with the remaining funds provided by the State. 15% of the provided funds must be used for hazard mitigation projects. Mr. Vath estimated that at the moment $60-65 million is available through the HMGP, but suggested that due to the extent of the damage this number is likely to increase.

Mr. Vath explained that the HMGP is completely voluntary and no private citizen will be included without their consent and application. Mr. Vath also encouraged people who may be considering elevating or repairing their homes to apply as well since applicants may withdraw their application at any time.

It was also noted that if a property is approved for buyout under HMGP, that particular property must thereafter remain vacant, and is considered Open Space. In addition if the Army Corps of Engineers would use the property for the flood wall, then that property is not eligible for buyout under HGMP.

Time is Running Out – Only Two Weeks Left to Register for Disaster Aid

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Survivors of the storms and flooding that ravaged central and eastern Pennsylvania have only two weeks left to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance. The deadline to register is November 14, 2011.

Individuals who live, work, or own a business in the 29 Pennsylvania counties designated under the disaster declarations for Hurricane Irene and Tropical Strom Lee are eligible. The counties are Adams, Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming, and York.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and FEMA urge those who sustained disaster-related losses to register by the deadline, even if they are unsure of their eligibility.

November 14 is also the deadline to apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan. For information about SBA loan applications, visit www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance or call the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955. Those with speech or hearing difficulties may dial 1-800-877-8339. Loan application forms can also be downloaded from www.sba.gov.

There are four ways to register with FEMA:

  1. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Operators assist callers seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Help is available in most languages. If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 1-800-462-7585.
  2. Register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  3. Register using a tablet or smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov.
  4. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.

If you have a disability and need help registering, please contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 and ask for assistance.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 1-800-462-7585.

Article Courtesy of FEMA

 

AGAPE in Dire Need of Volunteers

AGAPE is in dire need of volunteers. The need for help (especially during the day) is now critical with the new applications for financial assistance coming in as well as an increased demand for furniture, appliances etc. as flood survivors begin to get back on their feet. In the words of an AGAPE employee, “It was a zoo yesterday and as you know not one person there is a paid employee.”

The crisis is over but the emergency is not.

AGAPE is requesting volunteers to fill positions at the dates and times listed below. Please understand that any part of the day listed would be most appreciated with mornings always much busier than afternoons. AGAPE Center will be open regularly: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays. Call 317-2210, send an email to agaperelief@gmail.com or stop by the AGAPE CENTER if you can help with any of the following:

At AGAPE CENTER, 19 E. SEVENTH STREET, BLOOMSBURG
Information desk
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Answer phone, hand out applications, fill supply needs.

AGAPE CENTER
Storehouse helpers: Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability.
Help lift, load, unload and store donations (some heavy lifting)
Sort clothes; help fill supply requests from information desk.

At BLOOMSBURG MILLS WAREHOUSE, corner of Market and
Sixth Street, behind grass lot.
Handout food:
Thursday: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

FREEDOM HALL AT THE BLOOMSBURG FAIR GROUNDS
( Behind Farm Museum and near Tank Display)
Storehouse helpers: Help unload and store donated furniture; help load
furniture for flood survivors
Monday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

FLOOD SURVIVOR RECOVERY ASSISTANCE
Case Workers: Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability. Experienced or willing to train to interview flood survivors.

EXPERIENCED VOLUNTEERS
Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability.
Licensed electrician
Licensed plumber
Drywaller

Information courtesy of AGAPE

Building Permit Fees Cause Lively Town Council Debate

Preparing a West 3rd St. Residence for Repair
Preparing a West 3rd St. Residence for Repair
There was spirited discussion last night at the Bloomsburg Town Council meeting over the payment of Building Permit Fees, occupying nearly 20 minutes of the hour-long session. The issue centered around whether or not the Town should maintain, waive, or reduce the permit fees for the part of the population repairing their flood-damaged homes.

Ultimately no decision was reached on the fees, with the issue being postponed for further discussion until the Administrative and Budget Council meeting on Wednesday, November 9th.

Town residents are normally required to pay the Town a building permit fee of $10 per $1,000 spent on residential building improvements and repairs up to the first $20,000, and $4.00 per $1,000 thereafter.

Ed Fegley, Code Enforcement Officer for the Town, began his report to the Council by stating that residents still need to apply for permits for any repairs to their property, but asked the council for guidance regarding the fees for these permits.

Currently the Town is issuing permits pending fees to be paid later, but no fees are being collected at this time. Mr. Fegley cited issuing permits pending fees was done previously during the flooding in 2006.

Council Member Paul Kinney began the discussion by voicing his opinion that the Town not charge permit fees to flood-affected residents. “I think we ought to waive them,” stated Mr. Kinney. “It’s bad enough they lost a lot, everything. Why fork out more money to pay for a permit?”

Mayor Dan Knorr and Council Member Diane Levan both expressed concern over the cost to the Town over waiving permit fees since it is likely that a third-party agency would need to be hired to assist in their issuance.

Mr. Oren Helbok of East 5th Street added his voice to the discussion in support of the Town keeping the regular fees in place. “I would say that waiving the fees, while heartfelt, would not be the right move. Say my house burned down, would Council waive the fees on my permit for rebuilding that? We obviously have a lot of people who are in a bad situation, but it’s not necessarily up to the rest of the town to pay every part of their rebuilding.”

“I would say building permit fees go toward making sure the job is done well,” Mr. Helbok continued. “The scale of it makes it seem different, but any individual tragedy is the same tragedy.”

Mr. Fred Trump, Iron St., disagreed. “The people down there are elderly, their homes are destroyed, and if you want to talk about putting another fee on them, I think that’s horrendous, I think it would be wrong, and I don’t think you should be considering it at this point.”

Mayor Knorr then reminded those gathered that the cost of making sure repairs are done well will be borne by the Town whether or not the regular permit fees are maintained, reduced, or waived. “This [the work that will be done by the Town regardless] is part of the cost of ensuring that something is rebuilt correctly. Regardless of whether we make them [the permit applicants] pay that share of it, that cost is still going to be borne.”

Mr. Fegley then offered a compromise of a yet-to-be-determined reduced fee, but no data had been collected on the average cost of repairs done after the 2006 flood on which to base a reduced fee estimate. Mr. Fegley made his own estimation that average repairs would be about $15,000 per house, meaning an average permit fee of $150. Mr. Fegley also offered his opinion that the third-party agency hired to help with the issuance of permits would be willing to work with the Town on the structure of their usual fees.

Responding to the offer of reduced fees, Mr. Trump communicated his concern. “I think the fees should be waived,” said Mr. Trump. “You’re talking about fees that will place heavy burdens on the people of the west end of town.”

Carol Mas, Town Administrator, stated that she would know more about the cost to the Town after her meeting with FEMA authorities on the morning of Wednesday the 25th (today) about possible reimbursements. However she stated, “We do know we will not be reimbursed for building permits.”

Mr. Helbok then asked under what circumstances fees were reduced or waived in the past, and Mayor Knorr recalled that the Town waived such fees after the West Main Street fires. “We were trying to encourage redevelopment,” Mayor Knorr stated.

“And by waiving fees now,” responded Mr. Helbok, “you’re encouraging people to rebuild in the flood zone.”

For the moment the Council will maintain the status quo of issuing permits pending the payment of fees until the Town has a better idea of where it stands financially. The Budget Committee, which meets on Wednesday November 9th, will make a recommendation to the full Council on the status of the fees.

You can watch the entire Bloomsburg Town Council meeting here. Discussion of the Building Permit Fees begins just after the 37:30 time mark in the video.

Kiwanis and Fashion Delivers Bring Clothing to Flood Victims

Social Clubs and Industry Organizations alike have come together to assist those who lost much in the recent flooding. One such example is the partnership between The Bloomsburg Kiwanis Club and Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation, Inc.An association of both wholesale and retail fashion industry vendors, Fashion Delivers coordinates with a global network of more than one thousand local agencies, providing aid to those in need, as well as economic and philanthropic alternatives for companies disposing of their excess inventory.

Marianne Kreisher Fogelsanger, a Bloomsburg native, attorney at Kreisher & Gregorowicz, and President of the Bloomsburg Chapter of Kiwanis International, worked along with Kiwanis volunteers to help Fashion Delivers provide an outlet for their donations to the Bloomsburg area.

Mrs. Fogelsanger first learned of the Fashion Delivers program through friends in the Bloomsburg Natives Flood Relief Group on Facebook. At the time, Fashion Delivers had no local contacts who were able to accept their offered donations.

“After the flood and the devastation suffered by so many of our friends and neighbors, we were looking for a way to help,” said Mrs. Fogelsanger. “In the early days after the flood, AGAPE was unable to accept clothing, and there really needed to be one centralized place for clothing.”

Without a local contact, Fashion Delivers intended to make donations through a charity in Philadelphia, which would then redistribute the items to Bloomsburg. Through the efforts of The Bloomsburg Kiwanis, however, Fashion Delivers was able to assist Bloomsburg directly.

“Fashion Delivers had over 50 boxes of new clothing items to deliver and we wanted to find a place that could serve as a centralized distribution point,” stated Mrs. Fogelsanger. “The donation consist[ed] of women’s dress and casual clothing along with limited men’s clothing. We also had donations from Milco Industries of undergarments, and from K-Mart of socks and children’s pajamas.”

Having accepted these donations, The Bloomsburg Kiwanis then needed a place where local residents could benefit from this generosity.

“We called Dr. Gary Finnegan and he graciously donated the space of the old Blockbuster storefront so that we would have a point for distribution. I coordinated with AGAPE and they made arrangements to have volunteers at the storefront to accept the donations, organize, sort and distribute. Any flood victim is welcome to visit the Blockbuster store and pick up some new clothing.”

Mrs. Fogelsanger stated that people who accept these donations, do need to provide their FEMA number.

The Fashions Delivers donations also were able to help local high school students just before Homecoming. “Some of the dresses that were donated by Fashion Delivers were given to the Bloomsburg High School who had a homecoming and prom dress giveaway,” said Mrs. Fogelsanger. “Flood victims from our area and as far away as Selinsgrove took advantage of this generosity. The students and their families were so appreciative. It gave the kids a sense of normalcy, at a time when they really needed it.”

The donations haven’t ceased. Mrs. Fogelsanger reported that an additional 50 boxes of name-brand clothing were delivered last week.  What they lack now, however, are volunteers to help staff the distribution center.

At the moment Fashion Delivers donations are still being distributed at the old Blockbuster location, from 9 AM to 2 PM Monday through Friday, and 10 AM to 12 Noon on Saturdays.

Regarding these donations and the efforts of the Bloomsburg Kiwanis, Mrs. Fogelsanger said, “It has been wonderful that the Bloomsburg Kiwanis has been able to help our friends and neighbors that have suffered such great loss from the flooding. Hopefully, having some new clothing will be a start in helping them get their lives back to a sense of normalcy. We are so thankful that we were able to help.”

If you would like to help Kiwanis distribute these donations, please contact Marianne Fogelsaner by email at mkf@columbiacountylaw.com or her office phone, 570-784-5211. You may also contact AGAPE at 570-317-2210

Look Out for Signs of Post-Disaster Stress

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The initial trauma from Pennsylvania’s two late-summer disasters – Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee – has passed, but the psychological effects can linger.

Stress caused by loss or a traumatic experience can sneak up on people and influence behavior and emotions. The elderly and children are particularly vulnerable to stress after a disaster and may require special considerations.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have developed a list of things to look for and tips for helping yourself and others get through this difficult time. Some common signs of stress are:

  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Replaying the events and circumstances of the disaster over and over in your mind.
  • Anxiety or fear, especially when things remind you of the traumatic experience.
  • Feeling depressed, sad or down much of the time.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Nightmares.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.

Stress isn’t just emotional. It can manifest in physical sensations like fatigue, stomachaches or diarrhea, headaches, sweating or chills, chest pain, or a rapid heartbeat. Changes in behavior also can signal that you are under stress. Do you withdraw or isolate yourself, even from family and friends? Are you restless or prone to emotional outbursts? Do you startle easily?

Here are some common-sense measures to help you overcome stress and get you back to yourself again.

  • Friends and family are good medicine. Talk with them about your feelings. Sharing common experiences helps you deal with and overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
  • Get back into your daily routines as soon as you can.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
  • Find ways to relax. Do a fun thing after a difficult or stressful task.
  • Get some physical exercise every day. Walking is a great stress reliever and you can do it with a friend or relative.

Know that feeling stressed, depressed, guilty or angry is common after a traumatic event. Watch out for problems that are more than you can handle. If signs of stress are serious or if they persist, you should see a counselor or other mental health professional.

For more information about behavioral health services available in your area, please contact your county crisis hotline or mental health office. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional information about this disaster is available at www.fema.gov, and www.readypa.org.

Article courtesy of FEMA

Rep. Millard Talks with Fernville Residents

Here is the live blog of the meeting between Rep. Millard and Fernville Residents

Here is the live stream archive of the meeting between Rep. Millard and Fernville Residents

Pennsylvania State Representative David Millard held a meeting last night with his constituents from the Fernville area. The meeting, which was scheduled to last an hour, ended up going on for nearly two hours with many questions from residents who were angry, unsure about their futures, and concerned about mixed messages from all levels of government. Some felt the meeting itself was poorly communicated and had only heard about it several hours before the start time. In the end, there were few answers, but many promises of help from Rep. Millard.

Rep. Millard explains what residents should do to apply for disaster relief in this linked article.

Millard’s introductory remarks almost instantly turned from the advertised subject of “flood issues” to buy-outs of Fernville residents’ homes. There was a discussion about whether appraised or assessed values would be utilized if a buy-out actually occurs. The officials in attendance from Hemlock Township indicated that the township can decide which value is used.

Representative Millard spoke for about 5 minutes before he opened the floor to questions. Residents were concerned about the idea of fixing up their homes and then having a flood wall be built in that exact area. What would happen then? No one in the room was particularly sure. Later on, someone wondered if their property would be bought out if the flood wall was planned to go through their property. Once again, no definitive answers.

When residents heard that it might be 18 months to 2 years until buy-out checks could be issued, people in the audience expressed intense frustration over being homeless, having mortgages, and waiting for checks. Rep. Millard didn’t necessarily have an answer to this problem, but he did indicate that there are some legislative possibilities, including floating a state bond to help speed up the buy-out process.

The bond, if approved, would be issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order for residents to receive buyouts more quickly, with the money repaid to the Commonwealth with the forthcoming Federal disaster funds. While this bond is being considered, Rep. Millard indicated that the constitutionality of such a bond is in question, and research is being done to see if this issuance of a bond to be paid back with Federal disaster funds is in fact possible.

Rep. Millard promised that he would make public notice if there was action on this matter.

To further complicate matters, there was uncertainty about insurance payments as they relate to potential buy-outs. It was stated that buy-out money received will be deducted from any amount previously received from insurance. Records must be kept of money received and from whom it came.

The meeting broke down several times due to what could only be called general frustration. There was frustration from many people over the slowness of government insurance response and the futility of raising homes above flood level. There was frustration about the flood wall, with residents murmuring, “There will never be a floodwall.” There was frustration about there being no solutions in the past — no buy-outs or no floodwalls — with residents simply left waiting for the next flood.

Rep. Millard was actively attempting to collect information from people about their home values, their addresses and phone numbers, whether they would like to be bought out, and any complaints related to getting the insurance coverage they feel they are due.

The only real answers came when talking about demolition. According to Hemlock Township, if there is a massive buyout, properties will probably be grouped and the township will put out bids for demolition. Frustrated residents began to wonder aloud whether they could pursue a private company for demolition now.

As the meeting concluded, Rep. Millard indicated that he attempted to get FEMA to attend the meeting, but they were unable due to scheduling issues. He did indicate that FEMA has said they will make a presentation to the General Assembly and he will attempt to have them attend future meetings. It was hoped that those meetings will deal specifically with acquisition and shortening the time frame to make that happen.

After one hour and forty-five minutes, the meeting concluded with information changing hands and promises for better future communication.