Northmont Street flood project nearly ready to go

| Friday, May 30, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The Northmont Street Flood Protection Project could begin in less than a year and avoid court proceedings if residents in the path of the work give easements to their properties, Greensburg officials said on Thursday.

Forty-eight easements, both permanent and temporary, are needed for the project involving 23 property owners.

“We'd prefer, for a lot of reasons ... that you give us consent by signing the documents,” city solicitor Bernard McArdle told residents during a meeting at city hall.

About 35 residents attended the session sponsored by the city, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the EADS Group, a North Huntingdon engineering firm.

McArdle explained the city will have to turn to eminent domain practices to take property that owners don't willingly surrender. In such a condemnation process, a county judge decides whether the taking of the property is justified and whether the landowner is due compensation, he said.

The 2,100-foot project for the most part will involve box culverts and concrete channels.

At least 15 homes on Northmont, Kenneth, Kenmore and Beaver streets would benefit, officials said. Problems arise from overflow from an unnamed tributary of Jacks Run.

“I can't be convinced this is going to benefit us in any way,” said Amy McNair of Northmont Street.

She said she had not experienced flooding and will lose a large section of her land to the project, where construction of a large barrier to catch debris is proposed.

Her property and a neighbor's are used as play areas by neighborhood children, McNair said.

“I need to know more information before I can make a decision” about giving up her land, she said after the meeting. “I can't see a benefit for our property.

“It's all about the children. That's where all of them come together and spend time,” she added.

The project will run from Northmont past Kenneth and Beaver streets, then under routes 819 and 119. The channel will continue into Hempfield, where the Roosevelt Way bridge will be replaced. Discharge will occur in Jack Runs near Lynch Field.

The work has been discussed for decades. Over that time, work was shelved because of other flood-control work in the city and a decline in flooding in the Northmont area, state officials said.

Heavy rain in August 2007 renewed interest in the work. After those rains, residents began complaining to council about flooded basements and sewage backup.

The state has set aside $3.7 million for design, construction and inspection, and the city has budgeted $400,000 to obtain rights of way and for demolition work, tree removal and possible utility relocation.

The hope is work can start next spring, said Mark Malach of the DEP.

Both the DEP and the contractor will record via video what properties look like before construction, Malach and Don Black of the EADS engineering firm said. “Anything we disturb will be replaced,” Black said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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