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.

Candidate Guide for Town Council Elections

This Tuesday, November 8th, is Election Day.

Among the various local races there are four candidates standing for election to the Bloomsburg Town Council. The Bloomsburg Town Council is made up of six members and the presiding officer, the Mayor. The terms of the mayor and council members are four years, with three elected every two years. Council members are elected at-large and serve the entire municipality, rather than representing a specific ward or district.

In order for you to help make your decision on Tuesday, The Bloomsburg Daily offers this brief guide to the candidates and their stated positions.

Regardless of party affiliation or independent status, The Bloomsburg Daily encourages all eligible residents of Bloomsburg to vote in this and every election.

Barry Thorne, Republican

Background:

  • Graduate Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Doctorate Degree
  • Graduate New York State University-Cortland, Bachelor Degree Mathematics
  • Retired
  • Supervisor, Marion, New York
  • Bloomsburg Planning Commission 2008

Goals for Office:

  • Maintain and improve our present infrastructure.
  • Fill the vacant storefronts downtown, in order to maintain its vibrancy.
  • Recognize the importance of the town’s historic district, while realizing that with newer construction materials may need to be considered as alternatives.
  • Flood protection project needs to be built to protect essential areas of the town.
  • Continue support for the Town Park
  • Maintain a close working relationship with the University

Dianne Drosdick Levan, Democrat/Republican (Incumbent)

Background:

  • Active with Bloomsburg Little League
  • Graduate of Bloomsburg Senior High School
  • PA Treatment and Healing involved in treating those with drug and alcohol problems.
  • Bloomsburg Planning Commission 2005-2008
  • Vice President Town Council 2008 to present
  • Member of Columbia County Children and Youth Advisory Board

Goals for Office

  • Continue working on obtaining flood protection for the Town
  • Ensure safe housing
  • Continue to work on improving relations between the town and the university
  • Revitalizing downtown downtown businesses
  • Being a voice for the Residents of Bloomsburg

Eric T Bower, Democrat/Republican

Background:

  • Graduate Central Columbia High School
  • Graduate Community College of the Air Force Information Systems Management
  • President Bower Media, LLC

Goals:

  • Obtain funding for a floodwall project, even accepting flood protection that may not be exactly perfect but will protect the majority of the major infrastructure and industry that we have left.
  • Make Bloomsburg a more business friendly environment, by revamping complicated ordinances that hinder the growth of business in town.
  • Work closely with Bloomsburg University for its continued growth and success.

Fred Trump, Democrat

The Bloomsburg Daily attempted on several occasions to get Mr. Trump’s background information and his goals for office. As of our publish time, Mr. Trump did not provide that information.

William Todd Heiss and Derek Gittler for The Bloomsburg Daily

Photo by √oхέƒx™

Mayor Dan Knorr and Town Officials Visit Washington, D.C.

Bloomsburg Town Hall has confirmed with The Bloomsburg Daily that Mayor Dan Knorr, Councilperson Dianne Drosdick Levan, and members of the Bloomsburg Flood Authority all traveled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning.  We requested an agenda for their day, but none was made available.

Given the press release from Senator Toomey’s office and letter he sent to the Army Corps of Engineers today regarding the Bloomsburg flood wall project, we did want to see whether town officials were meeting with Toomey.  According to Senator Toomey’s office, they were not scheduled to meet with the senator.

As of Wednesday evening, we have not received any further comments from the town or Mayor. We will continue to follow up and attempt to get comments as soon as they are made available. Stay tuned.

Reported by William Todd Heiss and Kristin Zeisloft Camplese

Photo by Bob Rush

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.