TOWN OF NIAGARA – About 60 residents from the Belden Center area told the Town Board on Tuesday that it was high time something was done about the flooding, bad roads and unkempt properties in their “Shanty Town” neighborhood.
The main issue they brought forward to the meeting was the flooding of their basements last month during a record heavy rainfall and why a state of emergency was never declared.
All of the speakers said they suffered property damage to their homes and contents during the rain July 19, and many said washers, dryers, hot water tanks and furnaces were destroyed as up to four feet of water came down in less than an hour.
Dorothy Harris, of Byrd Avenue, said she “lost everything in the cellar,” including mementos made by her late son.
Also, she told the board, “I still don’t have hot water.”
Kelley Guthrie, of St. Paul Street, said it wasn’t rain water but polluted water “that came up through the toilet and drains.”
Many presented the board photographs and repair bills for the damage to their homes, and they were not willing to accept any quick answers from town officials as they kept up the questioning for nearly two hours.
Supervisor Steven Richards told the crowd that the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant, which services the Belden Center, Veterans Heights, and Richmond Avenue and Tuscarora Road areas of the town, shut down during the heavy rain. The shutdown, along with a blockage somewhere in the line, resulted in the dirty water backing up into the homes.
Despite continued badgering by the residents for not declaring an emergency, Richards assured them that it would have served no useful purpose.
He said the declaration would not have paid for personnel, manpower, generators, or any other equipment to help alleviate the flooding. In Lockport, a state of emergency was declared for that wastewater treatment plant but not the municipality. He said that under a state of emergency, the Lockport plant can now be repaired without the expense of union labor.
He explained that when Cayuga Village, a mobile home park, was flooded out a few years ago, the town declared a state of emergency. About 500 residents were evacuated from the park and put in motels. However, the town was never reimbursed for the expense.
State Sen. George Maziarz came to the meeting and told Lockport residents to file claims immediately with the state for reimbursement for damages. Even though it could be a lengthy process, Maziarz noted that claims need to get in before the end of the month and residents should retain documentation in the form of photos and receipts.
According to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s website, claims can be filed at www.nyshcr.org/Programs/NYS-Flood. Affected homeowners and others can also call the flood hotline at 1-888-769-7243.
Highway Supervisor Robert Herman said he is again applying for a state grant to replace the main trouble spot – the sewer line under Rhode Island Avenue. Expected to cost about $600,000, the repair would be the starting point in rehabilitating the area, he said. Once repaired, crews can branch out to the other lines that feed it. Also, the roads can then be paved.
If the grant application is rejected again, the town would have to “put together a plan” to fund the work, he said.
Other homes in another area, along Cayuga Creek, have also been flooded, residents said. Richards said the flooding there, on Lozina Drive, Tuscarora Road, Roberts and Disney drives, is because a berm around Cayuga Village was never installed properly.
Although the town could not bring action against the owners, it would support any residents who are seeking relief.