Luzerne County Council voted Tuesday to spend $10 million in federal flood recovery funding fixing infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
County Community Development Director Andrew Reilly recommended the repairs after a panel review of requests from various municipalities. Reilly plans to return to council with a proposal to spend most or all of the remaining $15.4 million in federal funding on up to 90 buyouts.
The largest portions of the $10 million allocation will go to West Pittston ($3.8 million) and Shickshinny ($2.8 million), which sustained extensive damage during record Susquehanna flooding in September 2011. Plymouth Township will receive $534,400 to repair three roads.
Several Nanticoke residents and city Manager Pamela Heard attended Tuesday’s meeting to urge council to adopt the plan, which includes $205,300 for the city to dredge the south branch of Newport Creek to improve the flow and prevent flooding of homes.
Councilman Edward Brominski questioned the use of $614,600 to demolish a deteriorating railroad bridge spanning the Susquehanna River in Exeter Township because the bridge is privately owned. Leo Glodzik, of LAG Towing in Duryea, bought the bridge from the county Redevelopment Authority years ago for the scrap value but never tore it down.
Reilly said county officials have identified the bridge as a serious health and safety concern because it could collapse and create a dam on the river.
Councilman Stephen J. Urban voted against the proposal. Councilman Stephen A. Urban, a former county commissioner, voted for the plan but said the meeting records should show he did not support the allocation of $191,670 to repair a sagging sewer line on Old River Road in Wilkes-Barre that causes sewage backup in structures.
The two men made a motion to remove the Wilkes-Barre project from the list but received no support from their council colleagues.
Stephen A. Urban said Wilkes-Barre charges property owners $50 per year for sewer maintenance that could be used for the repairs. He said the city doesn’t keep that money in a separate fund and properly account for its spending.
Reilly told council the entities approved for funding must submit invoices documenting completed work before they receive payment.
A council majority also voted Tuesday against a change that would officially change the composition of the county Flood Protection Authority to five citizens.
Some council members have expressed support for keeping the original structure that includes the county assistant engineer and county planning/zoning director because of their expertise. The authority oversees the Wyoming Valley Levee.
Stephen A. Urban, who serves as authority chairman, said the home rule charter discouraged county employees from serving on most county authorities and boards. Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck said the charter also allowed for exceptions.
A legal action over the eligibility of three unpaid citizen flood authority board members to continue serving is pending in court.