ZELIENOPLE — Nearly two months after heavy rains and flooding damaged the borough during a heavy May rainstorm, officials said July 29 they are making progress on finding solutions to the ongoing problem.
However, at least one member of borough council believes residents affected by flooding need to see tangible action sooner rather than later.
During last Monday's council meeting, Manager Don Pepe said a draft of a report dealing with stormwater management planning was recently submitted. He said borough staff has been working to create recommendations-based information gathered through investigation and public feedback since the most recent round of flooding at the end of May.
Pepe said part of the recommendation — and the most expensive — could be tree removal from streams in the borough. Tom Thompson, the township's engineer, estimated there are in excess of 20 trees that could be removed, with the borough finding a way to take on some of the cost from homeowners.
“I am not intending to remove the obligation of homeowners,” Pepe said, adding that he does not want to put the entire burden on them.
Thompson said removing the trees will mitigate the “damming effect” that occurs when an influx of water hits the streams.
However, Councilman Gregg Semel said he worried that the longer such work takes to plan and approve, the greater the chance of it being kicked further down the road.
“If it's not our problem, then we have to say that,” he said. “But if it is our problem, we have to act upon it. We can't just sit here and wait on the next storm.”
Semel pointed to a June council meeting not long after May's storm, when dozens of residents showed up to voice frustrations and ask the borough for help. He said community members are “primed” to see action being taken.
“We had a room full of people,” he said. “If they come back in 30 days, are we going to say, 'We're getting prices?' I don't want to be sitting here when that day comes.”
Pepe acknowledged Semel's point, noting that he and other borough officials not only recorded that feedback, but promised action.
“I made a commitment that we'll take (the trees) out,” he said.
Other council members urged a cautious approach.
Councilwoman Mary Hess said discussions with homeowners will need to take place to allow crews to access the trees. She also expressed concerns with liability if borough workers perform some of the work, which Pepe said could be an option.
“You don't just go in and cut 20 trees down,” she said.
Council President Allen Bayer said steps taken need to make financial sense.
“I want to be careful here,” he said. “I just don't want to do something to say we did something.”
Pepe and Thompson said they expected discussions and planning to continue, with action being brought to council at its next meeting. Those discussions also include other measures, including stormwater retention devices.
“This is only the first piece of the puzzle,” Pepe said of tree removal.