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Tuesday meeting will address flooding, drainage issues

Broken water mains. Flooded streets. Open fire hydrants. Wet basements and squishy yards.

They're all symptoms of a pervasive and chronic problem in stretches of north Amherst -- an inadequate water retention and drainage system administrators believe may cost $10 million or more to fix over a period of years.

This leads to a host of questions: Why is it taking so long to fix problems that the town has known about for years? Does the town have a plan to resolve the widespread flooding problems? Which troubled neighborhoods will be a town priority?

Residents who want in-depth answers should mark Tuesday on their calenders. At 7 p.m., the town will offer a comprehensive, 45-minute presentation on town flooding and drainage issues, followed by a question-and-answer period for residents.

The presentation will cover a lot of ground -- from basic earth science principles regarding precipitation and ground water movement to Amherst topography and soil conditions, development patterns and community-specific priorities for flood mitigation.

If this sounds like a college-level lesson plan, it certainly could be. But town officials say they want concerned residents to have all the information they need regarding challenges facing the town and hope to get good questions and feedback from residents.

Drainage presentations during board meetings haven't been adequate to address this issue, said Council Member Mark Manna, who asked that a special presentation be scheduled.

"The residents are better served by having a way to ask questions and not be under a three-minute time limit, and not have drainage issues be one part of the 100-part meeting," he said.

Town Engineer Laurence Heininger said Tuesday night's presentation in the Amherst Municipal Building will show residents how the town fell into the problems it's struggling with now, give an overview of how drainage systems work, review steps the town has taken to manage its flooding problems and talk about specific strategies to resolve existing problems.

Last year, the board commissioned Wendel Duschscherer Architects and Engineers to develop a flood mitigation plan.

The Town Board is planning to borrow $1.7 million to support the first phase of a townwide drainage program, which would focus on addressing the most flood-prone parts of town.

Supervisor Satish Mohan said he's looking forward to receiving good feedback and suggestions from residents, alert them to future drainage-related construction plans and reassure residents that the town is working to address their concerns.

He also wants residents to recognize the costs associated with the town's long-term flood-mitigation efforts.

"This is such a big expense from the treasury of the town and the pocket of the people," Mohan said. "So they should really know: Are we wasting it, or are we using it for the appropriate purpose?"

The meeting will be held in the council chambers of the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.


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