South Connellsville residents want action taken to stop flooding
Residents filled South Connellsville Borough chambers on Monday and voice frustrations concerning property damages caused by last week's flooding.
More than 70 properties were flooded as well as the streets of the borough followed by two periods of rain that dumped four inches of water late July 1 into the early morning hours of July 2.
Council member Vince Sherwood told the crowd the first step in applying for help to the Federal Emergency Management Agency was taken by Mayor Pete Casini. The borough also applied for public disaster assistance from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Both FEMA and PEMA are expected to visit the borough to assess the damage. If they deem the damage is bad enough, then it would be up to President Barack Obama to declare the area a disaster so federal assistance can take place and individual assistance can take place.
“It's a long, drawn-out process and there's no guarantees,” Sherwood said. “We have to meet certain criteria.”
The residents at the meeting were looking for other answers that they didn't quite get. Council was informed prior to the meeting that a notice of a lawsuit was filed against the borough over the flooding issue. Under the advice of the borough solicitor, council could say little.
“We're restricted to comment regarding the litigation,” Mark Ward, council president, said. “My hands are tied.”
“We can ask questions, but you can't answer?” asked resident Jay Fox.
Resident Lori Grinko said her major issue is not with the rain damage but with the damage caused by sewage backing up and flooding her basement.
“I have three-and-a-half feet of crap in my house,” she said. Grinko told council she found her dog swimming in the sewage in her home. “I can't live in that house. It's disgusting.”
What fueled Grinko's anger as well as other residents in attendance was the fact a similar incident happened three other times.
“I was told in 2003 it would never happen again,” Grinko said.
Resident Don Whittaker said he and others had to haul 12 tons of stones from his yard that were brought in by the storm and it took two full dump-truck size loads to clear his yard of debris.
He said he told council years ago to address the problem but the borough put in place insufficient storm drains.
“Somebody somewhere along the line has to address these problems,” Whittaker said. “How long do the people of the borough have to wait to get answers?”
Resident Janet Porterfield was also hit with flooding sewage for the third time and asked what are people living from paycheck to paycheck going to do when their household appliances are destroyed not by an act of God with rain water, but with sewage backing up homes.
Resident Kathy Wiltrout recently moved to the area and said she was lucky. Damage to her property was relatively minimal. But she asked council do whatever it takes to prevent what happened last week from happening again.
“I'm afraid I won't be as lucky next time,” Wiltrout said.
Sherwood said council is taking the issue very seriously.
“Council will have a response; it will have to be an educated response,” Sherwood said. “We'll do something. We owe you guys that.”
Council and the residents praised the efforts of the fire and police departments during the flooding.
In other business:
• South Connellsville's EMA Coordinator Michael Napolillo resigned from his position effective immediately via email. Council unanimously voted for Richard Loughman to fill the position.
• Council voted in favor of hiring Rita Bornstein as the borough's code enforcement officer at a rate of $200 a month for six months. Bornstein is currently the borough's health code officer and gets paid at a rate of $60 a month. Council will see if Bornstein will do both health and code duties for $200 a month. Mark Ward voted against the motion.
• Casini requested council pay $300 to the fire department for fuel reimbursement for continuously running their trucks and tankers during the flooding to pump out basements. Council voted unanimously to pay the department.
• Fire Chief Steve Helms requested use of the playground through the last week of August for the fire department's annual carnival.
• The borough announced that the flea market will take place Saturday at the borough playground.
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.