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

Live Blog: Bloom Town Council Meeting, Mon. Nov 14

8:58 Meeting adjourned.

8:57 CMSU grant accepted, replacing a PLCB grant that is used to help pay over time and cover other expenses during other spring and summer festivities.

8:54 Discussion about allowing a single parking spot for clients of David Ruckle, Lincoln Investments at 724 E. 5th., Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm

8:51 Free Holiday Parking approved for Main St. 25 Nov. – 30 December, Two Hour limit still enforced. Free Municipal lot parking 19-30 December.

8:49 Public Safety Commission report. Mr. Telesky request for handicapped parking at 150 W. First Approved.

8:45 Public Works Commission recommendations as posted in Council agenda read by John Barton all passed unanimously, including all repairs and projects at the Bloomsburg Airport

8:42 Bloomsburg Univerity Foundation / Presbyterian Senior Living Subdivision approval passes unanimously subject to conditions outlined in the Planning Commission minutes are met

8:40 HARB recommendations on repairs on Jefferson St. Property and 161 east Main pass without objection.

8:37 Motion to approve the HARB Recommendation passes 4-3, Council Members Kinney, Costa, and Howell vote No

8:35 Council discussion revolving around changing the zoning for the property or definitions of what constitutes a commercial district.

8:29 Resident Oren Helbok, 5th St., objected to the general sense of the discussion that the building would be permitted because the parking on the first floor would make the building mixed use.

8:27 Discussion on at the Property at Whiteman & 3rd and whether the building would be mixed use

8:22 Code Enforcement reporting on Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB) and the construction at 3rd St. and Whiteman Ave. There are local resident questions about the building being too close to the sidewalk.

8:18 Discussion on reduction of Flood related permit fees by 50% through the end of the year. To date no fees have been collected pending decision on this issue. To date, permits are being issued pending fees. Motion to reduce fees fees passes 6-1 with Council member Kinney voting No

8:16 Revised Policy on use of recording devices approved 6-1 with Council Member Kreisher voting No

8:15 Notice will be placed on Council Chamber door to the effect that discussions inside may be recorded by members of the public or media.

8:12 Solicitor Mihalik stated that the public has the absolute right to record all meetings openly, and believes this applies to hidden recording devices *during* a meeting. Recordings before and after a meeting is illegal without the permission of the individuals involved.

8:06 Town Solicitor Mihalik noted that secret recording before or after a meeting may be illegal (misdemeanor) but recording during meetings is legal.

8:05 Approve use of recording devices at Council Meetings. Original proposal paired down due to some objections from the Press Enterprise.

8:04 Administrative & Budget committee report. A few items listed in the agenda were restated to bring the items to attention. Minutes passed unanimously.

8:03 Approval of minutes of previous council meetings.

8:03 DBI is doing their Ocktoberfest at the Moose Exchange from 7-11 this Saturday night

8:01 Mayor Knorr reported that Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner toured Bloomsburg today to view flood damage.

8:00 Congratulations to newly elected Council Members Trump and Bower as well as Council Member Levan on her reelection.

7:57 A meeting to encourage applicants will likely be held early next week.

7:56 If the Army Corps of Engineers would use the property for the flood wall, then that property is not eligible for buyout under HGMP

7:54 Council Members Howell and Costa asked about parking as a possible use of the land. FEMA responded that this is an acceptable use.

7:51 Mayor Knorr asked if a meeting should be set up with interested homeowners, or if the list should be narrowed down. The list of possible eligible homes was closed off late last week, but since the relief should come quicker than previously expected, the possibility of encouraging further interested applicants is being discussed.

7:47 Council Member Renninger asked about the time frame for learning what the state and federal share would be. FEMA responds that it is being discussed now and decision could come any time.

7:45 Council Member Howell asked about what home owners should do in the meantime, if they should fix their homes. FEMA said that it was up to the individuals and should get guidance from local code officials.

7:42 Mayor Knorr wondered about encouraging all possible applicants to apply, but the FEMA representative reemphasized that this process is completely voluntary and any applicant can with draw the application at any time.

7:40 Up to 15 homes may be included on each application b the community. The State encourages that each application be submitted with the maximum number of applicants.

7:37 Mayor Knorr asked about upfront costs. FEMA responded that there would be upfront costs for certified appraisals but if the application is approved, then that money would come back to the community. Up front costs are the reason that some communities choose to use assessment values.

7:34 Council Member Kreisher asked about homes that would be elevated instead. FEMA responded that those people should apply as well, since the application can be withdrawn at any time.

7:31 Council Member Kreisher asked if Landlords would be eligible for the HGMP program. The FEMA representative answered that they are eligible under this program.

7:29 Letter of intent/Pre-Application available at http://www.pema.state.pa.us

7:28 FEMA representatives will be available in local communities to help facilitate the application process.

7:27 After letter of intent is approved, then applicants may submit the application proper and the State prioritizes the applications.

7:25 For application, Letter of Intent/Pre-Application (available on PEMA website) must be submitted. Letter of intent date moved back to 30 November. Application packet submission date moved back to 30 December.

7:23 Either Appraised or Assessment value must be used for all homes.

7:22 The property on which the demolished homes sit must thereafter remain vacant. The land thereafter remains open space.

7:20 The Local Government is the applicant who applies, not individual homeowners. Community is the entity that files the application. Must also be voluntary on part of communities applying as well as all individual homeowners.

7:18 Substantial damage is defined as 50% of the home’s value before the damage occurred

7:17 Estimated 500-600 homes destroyed state-wide. In terms of damage and cost, this is likely to be the largest disaster relief and mitigation project in the State’s history.

7:16 Program Priorities: Acquisition/Demolition of substantially damaged, or destroyed homes. (Commonly referred to as Buyouts)

7:13 Current estimate is that 60-65 Million will be available

7:13 FEMA provides 75% match funds to States. 15% of the funds must be used for hazard Mitigation projects.

7:11 All counties are elegible for relief From Hurricaine Irene or Tropical Storm Lee

7:10 Representative from FEMA regarding the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program addressing council.

7:07 Possibility discussed of splitting any and all collected change between AGAPE and the local chapter of the Red Cross

7:05 Bottom of Fountain would be covered with a tarp to both protect the fountain and make collection of change easier.

7:04 Plans discussed to safeguard decorations as well as any change collected. Also possibility of refreshments served, t-shirts sold as additional source of fundraising

7:00 Citizens to be heard: Council being addressed by Gary Vadakin regarding the decorating of the fountain for the holidays. Instead of the regular decorating and idea has been discussed that the fountain will be decorated as usual but people would be encouraged to “fill the fountain with change” with change donated to local charities for flood relief.

7:00 Meeting Called to Order.

6:53 All set up and waiting for the meeting to being

Town HallRefresh this page in your web browser, beginning at 7:00pm tonight, Monday, Nov. 14th to follow the Council meeting live.

The Bloomsburg Daily will be present to Live Blog the event for those unable to attend in person.

A live blog is “a blog post which is intended to provide a rolling textual coverage of an ongoing event, similar to live television or live radio.” (Wikipedia)

The top of the post will have the most current update and then you will be able to scroll down the page to see all of the previous updates in reverse chronological order.

The Agenda may be downloaded directly from the Town of Bloomsburg’s website.

The tentative agenda includes:

Citizens to be Heard: Thomas Telesky, Handicapped Parking Space Request, 150 West First St.

Approval of Monthly Reports:

  • Police Department Report
  • Police Officer Report
  • Police Vehicle Fuel Milage Report
  • Highway and Sewer Monthly Reports

Report of the Administrative & Finance Committee minutes and payments, Including:

  • Recommendation to Approve Reducing Flood Related Building Permit Fees by 50% until 31 December, 2011

Code Enforcement & Zoning Officer’s Reports, Including the monthly report and Planning Commission Minutes regarding the Bloomsburg University Foundation Senior Living Subdivision

Report of the Environment Committee, including the monthly summaries of the Recycling Center

Report of the Public Works Committee, including approval of various maintenance agreements and Recommendations on the Airport Extension and Realignment Project

Public Safety Committee minutes and Aproval of Free Holiday Parking on Main St. from Friday, 25 November – Friday 30 December (2 Hour Limit enforced). Free Parking in all Municipal Lots from Monday 19 December – Friday, 30 December.

Reports of the Town Solicitor, Fire Department, Community & Economic Development Committee, Airport Advisory Committee, and Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc.

Mayor and Town Representatives Show Strong Front in D.C.

On Wednesday, November 2nd, Mayor Dan Knorr, members of the Bloomsburg Town Council, the Bloomsburg Area Joint Flood Control Authority, the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, Rieter Automotive, Windsor Foods, the Bloomsburg Fair Association and the Columbia County Commissioners met with US Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Lou Barletta, and staff from Senator Pat Toomey’s office to discuss federal government support for floodwall protection along the Susquehanna River and lower Fishing Creek.

Ostensibly what appeared to be yet another in a long series of meetings with federal government representatives and officials, instead presented a strong, united front of local government, business, and community leaders. Local representatives traveled to Washington to impress the common goal of preserving local industry and jobs, and sparing the residents of Bloomsburg yet another devastating experience.

Speaking of the importance of bringing community leaders together for a face to face meeting with federal legislators, Mayor Knorr stated “They have a lot of issues [to deal with]. They’re physically removed in DC and we wanted to be sure they knew what is a priority for us.”

“They were impressed at the broad range of cooperation, and that made a difference to them. Seeing them eye to eye, that we’re all on the same page, that was a primary purpose of this meeting.”

Council Member Diane Levan agreed. “They were amazed at how everyone had come together on this,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it took this disaster, but they welcomed us, listened, were very concerned with our priorities and met with us in good faith.”

In addition to the unified front and goodwill felt at the meeting, both Mayor Knorr and Council Member Levan emphasized the specifics of what help Bloomsburg needed from the federal government. In particular this means a new Cost-Benefit analysis performed by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine to what extent, or if, the federal government would provide funding for the floodwall project.

“We know that [money] is tight at the federal level,” said Mayor Knorr. “This doesn’t mean projects aren’t happening, but they need to be prioritized.”

Although Senator Toomey was unable to attend this meeting in person due to commitments on the US Congressional Budgetary Supercommittee, sending instead members of his legislative staff, the Senator has already sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking them to complete a new Cost-Benefit analysis for Bloomsburg in light of the recent flooding. The Senator’s letter identified the new analysis as “imperative” and “vitally important.”

The common front presented by community leaders, and their insistence on a specific course of federal action is already seeming to have an effect. Both Mayor Knorr and Council Member Levan expect the Army Corps of Engineers to begin their new analysis by the end of the year, possibly within the month.

“We also got commitment for follow up with [the Senators, Congressman, and their staffs] by the end of 2011,” said Mayor Knorr. “If not a new meeting with the representatives directly, then either a conference call or a meeting with their staff in Bloomsburg by the end of the year.”

“We can give millions to other countries when there are floods,” said Council Member Levan. “But manufacturing jobs are hard to come by. It’s going to take some meaningful effort to help the people in our own town who have gone through so much.”

Town to Hold Open Forum

From the Town of Bloomsburg:

6:00 PM  Oct 18, 2011
Location: Bloomsburg Fire Department, Social Hall, 911 Market Street, Bloomsburg.

Mayor Knorr will facilitate discussion where residents will be encouraged to provide their insights, suggestions and criticisms on all aspects of the recent flooding disaster and subsequent reponse and recovery efforts.  Town Council, Police, Fire, Code Enforcement and EMA representatives will be present to answer questions.

Please plan to attend this important event.  For more information, please call the Bloomsburg Police Department at (570) 784-6779.