For many residents of the northern section of Clarence, Christmas week was a nightmare of flooded basements, closed roads and stranded motorists.
One of those residents said Saturday that she is frustrated and upset because, in her view, government has failed to address the problem for decades.
And that resident, Jerri Boskat, an outspoken realtor, said she plans to do something about it.
“I’ve been trying for at least five years to get someone in the town, county or state government to do something about this,” said Boskat, who lives on Goodrich Road, in the area often hard-hit by flooding from nearby Tonawanda Creek. “Every time I ask, I get the same answer. ‘Too much red tape, not enough money in the budget to fix it.’ ”
Boskat said major drainage improvements are needed in the northern section of Clarence, a rural area that includes farms, forests and middle-class country homes. She said she and a neighbor, Therese Floss, plan to start a petition drive and organize a public meeting of neighbors to force government officials into action.
“We live in a rural area. People who live in this neighborhood just don’t have much clout,” Boskat told The Buffalo News. “If this was happening in Spauding Lake, I am convinced it would have been fixed 15 years ago.”
Spaulding Lake is a high-end residential development off Main Street, which includes many of the town’s most beautiful and expensive homes.
Asked about Boskat’s comment on Spaulding Lake, Clarence Highway Superintendent James Dussing said Saturday night that he “doesn’t think that is the case.”
Dussing told The News that plans are being made to rebuild Goodrich Road in 2014, a step that he hopes will alleviate much of the flooding.
Boskat said she was pleased to hear that, but added that she will really believe in the reconstruction plan when she sees it happen.
“If that is what he says, I would be cautiously optimistic about it,” Boskat said. “But I’ve been trying to get action for years. I’m still planning to get the petition drive going to make sure it really does happen.”
Northern Clarence, northern Amherst, Newstead, and other communities along Tonawanda Creek have been hit by flooding numerous times over the years. The News and other local media outlets have reported on serious flooding problems in northern Clarence at least five times since 1998.
At various times over the past week, at least nine roads in Clarence have been closed, including Delaware Road, which was still closed on Saturday.
“It was a tough week. Anytime you see homes with three or four feet in the basement for the Christmas holidays, that isn’t good,” said David Bissonette, Clarence’s director of civil defense. “About 60 homes were affected by basement flooding.”
Bissonette said he, town highway workers and natural disaster services coordinator David Baumler worked many hours helping stranded motorists and delivering sandbags to homes.
Boskat said she and her husband, George, did not have a flooded basement because their home sits at a higher point than most in the neighborhood.
“But I had friends who couldn’t get in or out of their homes for a couple of days because the homes were surrounded by water,” Boskat said.
She and her husband frequently endure other problems because of the poor drainage in the area, Boskat said.
“We own 25 acres next to our home, and all summer long, it was under several inches of water,” she said. “The land is unusable, but we pay taxes on it. We have a tremendous problem with mosquitoes because of all the water.”
Bissonette said the flooding of the past week was the “fourth worst I’ve seen in Clarence” since taking his job with the town 22 years ago.
Boskat said she hopes to announce a public meeting for homeowners to discuss the continuing problems sometime in the next few weeks.
“It’s a huge problem. They need to improve the drainage, clean weeds and debris out of the drainage ditches and repair the roads. It isn’t rocket science,” she said. “We’ve been here since 1991 and Clarence is a wonderful place to live, until the water comes.”