Oakmont Commons residents want FEMA and the borough to buy their homes
Several Oakmont Commons residents hope the borough and federal government will buy their homes so they can head to higher ground.
Jill Tabis and Donna Caligiuri were among a handful of neighbors between 255-265 Commons Drive still putting their lives back together after severe storms in July. Rains flooded portions of Oakmont, Plum and other Allegheny County neighborhoods that month.
“This has been a very devastating time for us,” Caligiuri said. “We constantly live in fear that it’s going to happen again.”
They went before council Monday night to urge borough officials to look into the federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to buyout the residents in the flood plane.
“We want to move to higher ground, wherever that may be, where we don’t have the risk of flooding,” Tabis said.
Communities interested in buyouts would submit letters to the state, which would then review the requests.
It may be difficult, however, for the borough to qualify for buyouts because there was not a disaster declared by the presidnet, one of the factors listed by FEMA.
Tabis said their area also flooded in 2004 with Hurricane Ivan, which President George W. Bush did declare an emergency disaster.
She also noted the borough’s “Herculean efforts” to address the failed maintenance of the Oakmont Commons’ swale and changing water patterns in preparation for the 2016 U.S. Open.
“After the event ended and the cameras left, no effort was made by the borough to remedy the underlying causes,” she said.
Resident Angela Lapson said she told council about the possible buyout option and federal grants to the borough in September, and since then she has received the support of fellow impacted neighbors.
“We’re exploring all options,” borough Manager Scot Fodi said. “We have so many sticks in the fire right now with Plum Creek, the Commons, the properties behind that. We have to look at all our funding options as well.”
Fodi also spent time with impacted residents following the council meeting to further address their concerns. He said council recently adopted a resolution regarding Allegheny County’s hazard mitigation plan and will continue to seek solutions for the Commons.
The borough’s cleaned catch basins and tapped Harmony-based Sperdute Land Surveying to analyze Plum Creek and parts of nearby Oakmont Commons as part of efforts to help address storm water management issues.
Senate Engineering would use the data compiled by the survey with its models and test different scenarios, which include raising the elevation of the old Plum Creek railroad bed, and removing debris from what’s colloquially called “leaf pile park” near the Commons.
Jay Quade, senior inspector for Senate Engineering, said on Monday preliminary models were completed and the survey data is nearly complete.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .