Budget swamped, taxpayers may foot flood funds

Indiana borough flooding II

 

By Logan R. Hullinger

INDIANA — Lee C. Vest is no stranger to flooding. As a longtime resident of the 300 block of Water Street and as a neighbor of Marsh Run, she’s been urging the borough’s council members to do something about recurrent floods for 30 years.

“I can’t tell you how many washers, dryers and sump pumps that I’ve had destroyed,” said Vest, secretary in the Journalism and Public Relations Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, during a Sept. 19 interview. “The ground is literally caving in where Marsh Run goes underground. The whole thing is collapsing. I took photos to a borough council meeting in 2015. But they said they didn’t have money to fix it.”

Vest has documented flooding in her neighborhood since 2012 on a Facebook page titled “Flooding (Marsh Run) Indiana, PA 15701.” It includes posts about her experiences with accompanying images.

Vest said she has urged council members to buy houses near Marsh Run and turn the flood plain into park land. Council members have not acted on the proposal.

Council member Donald Lancaster, a Willow Avenue resident, Marsh Run neighbor and Public Safety Committee chairman, said borough finances are a factor. However, he said, the borough recently set aside money to address the flooding issue, but a road block arose.

Indiana. Pa., borough council member Donald Lancaster. Source: borough website.

“We did have money put aside in the new budget — about a quarter of a million dollars,” Lancaster said during a Sept. 27 phone interview. “We’d like to acquire properties and do some channel work. The issue we had was with the business improvement district falling apart.”

Business improvement districts authorize property owners in commercial areas, such as the downtown Philadelphia Street area, to tax themselves to make improvements and enhance commerce.

However, the borough’s BID collapsed last month.

“Now, we have to reconfigure the budget to use money from flood control to fund those efforts,” Lancaster said. “It’s an ongoing problem.”

Lancaster said his home on Marsh Run has flooded, and he empathizes with his neighbors.

“I think over the last few years it’s been worse than in the past,” he said. “This year, we’re more aware of it. Hindsight is always good; I can’t blame the other councils for what they did or didn’t do, I just know what we have facing us now.”

Lancaster said he hoped the borough’s new budget can afford “some remediation.” But he added, “We couldn’t completely stop the flooding.”

Changes in the weather are a factor, Lancaster suggested.

“We’re seeing more intense hurricanes and isolated, intense storms such as the rain storms,” Lancaster said. “Whether you believe in global warming or not, we’re seeing serious weather changes. If we could do everything according to textbook, we could remediate a lot of it. But still, when you get four to five inches of rain in a few hours, you’re still going to get flooding.”

Who will pay the borough’s bill to alleviate residents’ perennial flooding problems?

“We’re just really tied up because of the state and federal levels of governments cutting their budgets,” Lancaster said. “Now, we may have to look at prospects of raising property taxes to cover these things. However, I’d love to be able to find funding to help.”

Borough council members early this month announced plans to canvass residents in flood-prone neighborhoods during October and present the results in November.

Logan R. Hullinger, a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a staff reporter for The HawkEye, is from Clarion. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu

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One Response to Budget swamped, taxpayers may foot flood funds

  1. Lee Vest says:

    I would be very interesting in knowing what the Indiana Borough’s expenditures have been, let’s say, for the past 10 years. I’ve attended borough meetings where plans have not come to fuition for various endeavors and significant amounts of money has to be spent on these. One recent initiative that comes to mind is the plan for a bike trail along Gompers avenue connecting the Hoodlebug Trail to East Pike. Many plans were drawn up with options for the best route and I believe a consultant was hired from Pittsburgh. How much did those plans cost? I know they weren’t free. Borough funds were used to pay off bonds on downtown Philadelphia Street sidewalk replacements, trees, the archway… Again, how much money was spent? These are just two examples of money that was spent which would have gone a LONG way to fix infrastructure problems and upgrades including Marsh Run problem areas. I would REALLY like to see these budget figures. The borough council needs to look at their expenditures instead of placing blame on failure of the BID tax proposal and everything else under the sun.

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