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Relief coming to flood-prone Cheektowaga neighborhood

Cheektowaga homeowner Pat Kubiak replaced two Pontiac Vibes damaged by flood waters on her street in just eight years.

Brian Weinholtz, a neighbor across the street, lost his Ford Mustang to flooding on Vegola Avenue in 2008.

Just next door, Richard and Helene Slowinski have spent countless dollars waterproofing their basement.

"If you've ever had anything with water, you know you can't stop it," Kubiak said.

Town, state and federal officials have tried many ways to stem rising waters in the Winston-Vegola neighborhood in Cheektowaga over the decades since the construction of the nearby Kensington Expressway.

Ditches. Culverts. Wider ditches. Street receptacles. Portable stormwater pumps. And other measures.

Homeowners and town officials hope the latest foray into stemming rising rainwater — a $100,000 project to replace a street culvert — might just do the trick.

"I believe it will solve the problem," said Town Engineer Patrick T. Bowen.

On Tuesday, Bowen flanked state Sen. Timothy Kennedy and Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski for an announcement on state funding for the project. Construction should begin sometime over the next month or so.

The project will replace a two-pipe culvert under Winston Avenue with a more-open "box culvert" that will have the capacity to handle more stormwater during heavy rains. The culvert connects a ditch on the southern slope of the Kensington Expressway with an expanded drainage ditch that runs through the neighborhood to Scajaquada Creek.

"With the upgraded drainage system in the area, residents can once again have peace of mind knowing that severe flooding in the area is a thing of the past," Benczkowski said.

Residents hope the supervisor is right.

The ditch already carries swift moving waters through the backyards of residents during heavy rains.

"Once the creek starts rising, if you don't shut the valve (in your basement) off, that creek water comes right into your basement," Weinholtz said.

Luckily, even with all of this year's rain, basements have stayed dry in 2017 even as waters have edged up the street, residents said.

Residents attribute that to work over the last year or two at the Winston-Vegola Park at the end of their street, including changes to landscaping and the installation of some barriers.

"It's been a little better," Helene Slowinski said.

Wood chips and other debris from the park would often drift with rising waters up the street and clog storm receptacles, exacerbating the flooding.

Kennedy said residents in this low-lying area between Union and Beech roads in the shadow of an elevated portion of Route 33 alerted him to their persistent neighborhood flooding in 2015 when he sought state money to fix sewage overflows into nearby Scajaquada Creek.

Residents relayed stories of flooded homes, garages, yards and vehicles.

"Due to inadequate design, these homeowners have suffered for too long," Kennedy said. "There have been at least three significant flooding events right here in this neighborhood since 2009."

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