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Councilman seeks flood fixes in Sharpsburg

| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007

Clogged, neglected catch basins contributed to flooding at the Sharpsburg borough building and other properties along 16th Street earlier this year during a severe storm, and council wants to prevent the damage from occurring again.

Obvious fixes to the drainage system in the borough, Councilman Larry Stelitano said, could improve the chances of dodging damage during next year's storm season.

Suggested fixes include repairing clogged catch basins and dredging a stream that has accumulated a foot-and-a-half of dirt and stones.

Council last month voted to apply for a county-administered state Department of Community and Economic Development grant offered to designated flood communities to fund projects that will have an impact on flood prevention programs. It will find out next year if the proposal is accepted.

Etna Council also will try for the grant money.

Council members will propose repairs to the drainage system, a retention basin on Ganster Run at Snyder Street and assistance in funding to lift the railroad bridge as projects that are top priorities to Etna Borough, according to Borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage.

In Sharpsburg, 16th Street and the borough building often experience flood damage during severe weather in the rainy seasons.

A catch basin in the borough building parking lot and another at the intersection of Middle and 16th streets have been neglected for the past decade, leaving clogged, dirty basins that reject water and cause flooding in the surrounding areas.

Crews recently replaced catch basins along 13th Street with bicycle-safe grates.

"Over the years, no maintenance has caused the catch basins to become sealed up," said Stelitano. "Its like putting a plug in the bathtub -- the water just runs right over it."

The goal, Stelitano said, is to fix the flood-causing problems, including dredging the Seitz Run stream.

The waterway, which runs underneath 16th Street, has accumulated more than 18 inches of dirt and stones, Borough Secretary Ron Borczyk said.

A dredging project would have to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"We don't have a problem with the river flooding and backing up," Borczyk said. "We have problem with the water having access back to the river. We need to do a little better job allowing water to relieve itself."

O'Hara has teamed up with Sharpsburg to discuss how its practices and projects can prevent flooding downstream.

It will concentrate on the upper end of the stream, while Sharpsburg will focus on improving the flow of water back to the river, rather than on the streets, Borczyk said.

The estimate to replace both of the outdated catch basins would cost about $5,000, Stelitano said.

The bulk of the cost will be determined after a contractor excavates and inspects the current basins.

Work likely will take about three to five days, according to Stelitano, and could cause some traffic interruptions.

Misty Chybrzynski is a staff writer for The Herald of Aspinwall.

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