The state’s Department of Environmental Protection has reportedly all but washed its hands of a aimed at helping residents at the Woodwinds development.
“There’s not too much they’re going to be able to do,” Hatboro Borough Manager told the council and several Woodwinds residents of the DEP. “Their initial visit here is ‘it’s not worthy of the effort.’ ”
That effort between the borough and DEP, which got underway in February - but was put on hold for six months - was what at least some residents of the 79-unit Woodwinds development were hanging their hopes on.
“We’re all in limbo. We’re all in a waiting stage. Every single time it rains, my family and I have to be on call and be ready to run home at the drop of a dime,” said Gary Gefter, a Drummers Way resident whose wife, . “We can’t sit and wait years as people are recommending or suggesting.”
Hatboro officials in February adopted a resolution to begin collecting flood damage data from residents along the Pennypack Creek, with a particular emphasis on the Woodwinds condominiums, which were dealt the brunt of flooding during two recent storms. From there, the plan was to to start collaboratively work with the DEP on possible flood fixes.
Then leadership changed. Both in Hatboro’s local government with the and later and within DEP, officials have said, which caused the project to be temporarily shelved. Now, Plaugher said he’s waiting on a letter from DEP officially calling an end to what was to be a lengthy study.
But, Gefter, who has already begun redeveloping his family’s home while awaiting word from FEMA on coverage, is not ready to give up. During the council’s meeting Monday, Gefter all but begged the governing body to help him and the other Woodwinds residents.
“Have the engineer take a look at it once more,” Gefter pleaded. “Things happen every year in technology, in medicine, in science, why not water drainage?”
After several minutes of back-and-forth between the council and Gefter, officials agreed to have borough engineer James Dougherty revisit the issue to see what, if anything, can be done on a municipal level. Doughtery said he’d need at least a month to review the flood-prone area and report back.
In the meanwhile, the council said a federal grant over the last 10 years has been used on a series of projects aimed at better stormwater management. Despite the progress, the governing body said little has been done to help Woodwinds, which is situated adjacent to the Pennypack Creek.
“We keep coming back with $1 million Band-aids,” Councilwoman Nancy Guenst said, adding that those fixes would not “significantly change” the flooding problems. “It’s a place where there are lives and there are homes that never should have been built there. And you’re paying the price now of somebody’s really big mistake.”
Since the homes are private property – managed by a condominium owner’s association – the council could not spend taxpayer money improving the complex, officials said.
However, Councilman John Zygmont said the borough has been carrying out “step-by-step solutions” for better drainage over the last decade. Another three to four years is needed to reach completion, he said.
Zygmont, like Dougherty and other council members, said he doubts anything can be done to keep Woodwinds residents from losing their first floors in the next big storm.
“It all drains to you,” Zygmont said.