County promises aid for victims of recent flooding

Victims continue to pick up the pieces from “localized, but devastating, flash flooding” that hit the region early Friday morning, but while federal funding still is uncertain, the Lycoming County commissioners are considering ways to provide local aid.

“They need help, but they could use some money as well,” said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “I’ve never seen a flash flood like this.”

“They lost everything,” he added.

John Yingling, director of the county Department of Public Safety, gave a preliminary report to the commissioner at their meeting Tuesday morning. He said the report shows damage only to year-round, primary residences, as part-time or seasonal residences are not eligible in the application for federal funds.

The preliminary report of year-round, primary residences affected showed four homes destroyed, four homes with major damage, 20 homes with minor damage and 12 homes affected.

Yingling said he still is waiting for damage assessment reports from some municipalities, including Lewis Township, and expects that around 12 more homes could be included in the above categories.

Some of the people affected were not located in designated floodplains and don’t have any insurance to cover the damage, Mussare said.

Matt McDermott, director of administration and chief clerk for the county, stressed the need for individuals affected by the flooding to send detailed reports to their municipalities, thoroughly explaining the extent of the damage as well as the future impact the damage will create for their property and livelihood.

The county will work to address the immediate needs first but also will dedicate help to those with long-term issues, Mussare said.

Additionally, crews still are assessing the damage to roads and bridges throughout the affected region, Yingling said. One bridge in Bodines will cost upwards of $1 million to replace, he said.

If the total cost of those affected in the region reaches a total county cost of $360,000, as well as a statewide threshold of $16.5 million, this will make the area eligible for federal assistance, Yingling said.

Despite the seemingly low number of homes affected, Yingling said many structures affected were only part-time or seasonal and could not be included in the report.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said the county would look into ways to refocus grant funds given to the county for disaster relief.

“We are not forgetting these folks,” he said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to pass a resolution declaring a disaster emergency in Lycoming County. The declaration was signed by all three on Friday and sent to the state.

Al Boyer, McIntyre Township supervisor, thanked the county for its words or support, but he said the people in his township need more than words.

“We had a beautiful community up there, and now it’s destroyed,” Boyer said. “We need your help.”

Boyer asked for help from the county landfill with trash removal, but Jason Yorks, Resource Management Services director, said the county does not have a collection service set up, and what trucks it does have are funded through a recycling grant and cannot currently be used for collection, per regulations from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“My hands are tied,” Yorks said. He said there are about 80 private garbage haulers in the area, and the landfill does not compete with them.

Additionally, the landfill and the transfer station are required by the DEP to impose a $6 fee for each ton of garbage dropped off, and currently DEP has not offered to waive the fee for flood-related debris.

So far, Yorks said the landfill has recorded 11.5 tons and the transfer station has recorded 5.7 tons of flood debris. Officials expect to receive much more in the upcoming days and weeks.