WP meeting to focus on continuing flood problems


First Posted: 6/21/2013

On Wednesday West Pittston residents will have an opportunity to hear first-hand about the major changes in their flood insurance and what funds might be available to help rebuild.

More than 19 months since the Susquehanna River inundated 880 homes and 26 businesses, the borough and its residents are still struggling to rebuild and are now facing new challenges brought primarily by sweeping legislation passed in July, 2012, that completely reforms the National Flood Insurance Program.

The town meeting, sponsored by West Pittston Borough and West Pittston Tomorrow, is set for Wednesday, June 26, at the Wyoming Area High School auditorium at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30. Representatives of FEMA, the State of Pennsylvania, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Luzerne County are scheduled to talk with residents.

“This is a critical meetings for all West Pittston residents whether flooded or not,” says Judy Aita, president of West Pittston Tomorrow. “The implications of the changes in flood insurance, promised Federal disaster aid, and the levee study affect the entire community.”

The town meeting will give West Pittston residents and business owners a chance to view the new National Flood Insurance Program elevation maps that went into effect in November, 2012, and discuss with the experts what it means for their homes and insurance rates.

The drastic changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), known as the Biggert-Waters Act, is the only way to keep the NFIP afloat, Congress has explained. But some of those changes include the elimination of subsidized rates and the revision of rates in Special Flood Hazard Areas over a five-year period to reflect actual flood risk. That could mean substantially higher flood insurance premiums for some homeowners.

“Since the passage of Biggert-Waters, grandfathering is scheduled to be completely phased out for some homeowners and insurance rates will be based on whether your structure is above, below or at what is called the ‘base flood elevation’ height. It is complicated and the more one learns about it, the more questions arise. It is the ‘rest of the story’ that as to be told,” Aita says.

This meeting will give homeowners an opportunity to talk with the experts about their individual situations, the organizers say. They planned this meeting as a workshop with plenty of time for residents to get answers to their specific situations.

And there are other issues for West Pittston that will be addressed, the organizers say. Also on the agenda are disaster aid promised to the flooded community; buyouts of severely damaged properties; grant money for flood damage mitigation; West Pittston’s request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a “Section 205” study for a levee or other flood mitigation; and West Pittston’s flood ordinance and compliance.

“About one-third of West Pittston was flooded. How the homes and businesses in that area survive and prosper has major implications for the entire borough and even the school district. It is important that everyone takes the time out of an early summer evening to learn what’s happening,” Aita says.

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