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Tarentum high-rise residents can't return until Monday, after flood repairs

Matthew Medsger
| Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, 4:27 p.m.
Residents of The Golden Towers apartment building on Third Avenue in Tarentum won't be able to return to their residences until Monday due to basement flooding last Saturday. Jan. 17, 2018
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
Residents of The Golden Towers apartment building on Third Avenue in Tarentum won't be able to return to their residences until Monday due to basement flooding last Saturday. Jan. 17, 2018
The Golden Towers apartment building on Third Avenue in Tarentum. Jan. 17, 2018
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
The Golden Towers apartment building on Third Avenue in Tarentum. Jan. 17, 2018

Kathy Gongaware is one of about 60 people who had to leave her home at the Golden Towers in Tarentum on Saturday after the Allegheny River jumped its banks and flooded the basement.

She won't be able to return until Monday.

The eight-story, public housing apartment building is operated by the Allegheny County Housing Authority along Third Avenue, three blocks from the river.

That flooding filled the basement with 5 feet of water and destroyed the heating system, which prompted the residents' temporary displacement.

Frank Aggazio, housing authority executive director, said Wednesday that boilers in the basement have been repaired and are being checked for functionality.

Residents should be able to return to their apartments by Monday, Aggazio said.

“We're confident, but we want to make sure the boilers are going well. We've repaired the boilers, and we're doing testing on the second one we repaired now,” he said.

However, warming weather and rain forecast for this weekend have housing authority officials worried about whether the waters will rise again.

“We're trying to get info about the rise of the rivers,” Aggazio said. “We don't want the same thing occurring again.”

Aggazio said all Golden Towers residents have been moved temporarily to other nearby housing authority buildings — Rachel Carson Hall, also in Tarentum, and Brackenridge Hall — or to hotels, though some residents elected to stay with family.

“Residents were also provided stipends for food,” he said.

Gongaware said she has been staying with family but that the days away from home haven't been easy, but news that she would be able to return on Monday at least addresses her concerns about when she'll be back.

Gongaware commended the county's efforts to get residents out of the quickly chilling building on the night of the evacuation, saying the staff was well organized and quick to answer concerns.

Aggazio said evacuation went smoothly for the most part because the county has prepared for just such an occurrence.

“We have evacuation and emergency plans that we follow,” he said. “We want to make sure we provide a good quality of life to the residents, and I think we took care of the needs of the residents that didn't have a place to go.”

This event represents the worst flooding at the Golden Towers that Aggazio has seen in his 16 years with the housing authority.

“We've had a few inches of water before, but nothing to this extent by any means,” he said.

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, mmedsger@tribweb.com or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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