Spurred by two recent devastating storms and subsequent flooding, about 60 Hatboro residents filled the Hatboro Borough Council meeting Monday night in an attempt to get answers.
The sometimes-heated question-and-answer session with the governing body may have resulted in more questions than answers.
Would Hatboro be declared a federal disaster site?
If so, when would that happen?
What help is offered for residents – particularly those from the oft-flooded community – as they are forced to rebuild again?
Could homes that sustained significant flood damage be purchased by the federal government, as officials had suggested?
And, perhaps the million dollar question: What’s being done to stop the overflow of water from Pennypack Creek?
“Obviously those are all answers we don’t have yet,” Borough Manager Steven Plaugher said. “We’re working with the federal government, the state government and our local surrounding municipalities.”
Plaugher said he arranged a meeting with Upper Moreland officials for next week and has involved both the federal and state emergency management agencies along the way. Representatives of FEMA and PEMA have accompanied Plaugher on visits to some of the . At least for right now, Hatboro – and Montgomery County as a whole – , as was announced prior to last week’s unexpected , the sequel to .
Other rounds of disaster relief will follow, but it is not clear if and when Hatboro would be considered, officials said.
“It’s not a dead issue, but it hasn’t been declared as of yet,” Hatboro attorney Michael Savona said.
Borough officials sympathized, but said there was little the local government could do on its own. Councilwoman Nancy Guenst, a former Woodwinds resident, said she understood the sentiments shared.
“I moved when I lost my first floor,” Guenst said.
In all, during Hurricane Irene, Property Manager Bob Felte told Patch previously.
Woodwinds resident Tracy Thatford, who distributed a letter during Monday’s meeting that she drafted to Gov. Tom Corbett, as well as other government officials, said the battered homes can’t withstand another major storm.
“We can’t delay any further. We need to do something,” Thatford said. “Some of these units had to be gutted. There was sewage. There was mud.”
One woman said her home sustained $18,000 worth of internal structural damage stemming from water coming through the brick.
“If this happens again, I’m losing two feet of my house,” she said. "We need some kind of temporary fix to keep the water from rushing against our houses."
The woman, who said in four years of owning the home she’s dealt with “three devastating floods,” suggested dredging the creek.
Councilman Bill Tompkins pointed out that anything done to Pennypack Creek would require a DEP permit. And since , particularly in the area of Woodwinds, he said taking another measure prior to the study’s conclusion would not be likely.
“It’s going to take time to get into a budget,” Tompkins said of funding to cover potential flooding fixes. “They may come back and say ‘it’s hopeless’ and the only solution is buy out or condemn (the homes).”
The study, which was to get underway in February with collection of flood damage inventory, has stalled, due in large part to personnel changes in the borough, as well as within DEP, Plaugher said.
“There’s all new people on board,” said Plaugher, who himself is new. “Although (a resolution) was passed in February, I don’t believe it has moved too much further than that. We want to pick up where that left off.”
Plaugher said he’s planning to meet with the new DEP representative next week. Felte, who had worked with previous Borough Manager Tommy Ryan on the matter, said the study was left in the information gathering stage. Residents of Woodwinds and neighboring properties were supposed to get a letter from the borough inquiring about the type of flood damage that their homes have sustained over the years.
“This is the first time since 1997 … that anybody at the state level was willing to step to the plate and say ‘we’ll push the project,’ ” Felte said. “That’s the one piece we can grasp onto right now.”
Several in attendance, including Woodwinds landlord Shari Limbert, spoke out against the delay.
“That should’ve never happened,” Limbert said. “To hear that something that may have helped us has been stagnant for seven months is disconcerting.”
Plaugher said it’s unlikely that corrective action would have been in place for the last two floods.
Tompkins said Upper Moreland coordinated with DEP on a flood damage inventory and study for the frequently flooded – which is also partially situated in Hatboro.
“The damage wasn’t significant enough to cover the cost of improvements,” Tompkins said.
Hatboro had lent its support to Upper Moreland’s flood improvements request. In addition to collaborating with Upper Moreland, Hatboro officials suggested also working with Warminster.
Savano, who also represents Warminster, said the township’s governing body has made a lot of effort to try to curb flooding. In terms of stormwater management for new construction, he said, “no one’s cheating or taking shortcuts.”
“It’s not any one project that tips the scale,” Savano said. “The regulations today are probably 10 times more intensive … than they ever were. What we’re trying to do now is catch up for 50 or 60 years.”