City joins deal on lobbying for levee repair funds

City Council took a step Thursday toward getting untold costs of levee repairs paid.

It approved a yearlong agreement with Lycoming County and other municipalities that are protected by the dike.

The agreement requires the city to invest $18,000 toward paying Thomas Keller and Associates, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm that is going to try to secure federal grant and federal money toward repair costs.

The levee must be repaired to be certified under a regulation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency adopted following Hurricane Katrina damage in 2005 to levees built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

If the levee is not repaired and meets the federal standards, the majority of residents and businesses protected by it would have to pay high federal flood insurance, said Councilman Clifford “Skip” Smith, public works committee chairman.

The county is going to foot $36,000 of the $72,000 bill while South Williamsport and Old Lycoming and Loyalsock townships each will pay $6,000 in cost of the contract.

Keller has been successful in obtaining $3.4 million in grants for the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority, said Fran McJunkin, floodplain manager with the county Department of Planning and Community Services.

“When I told council I was excited about this project, I mean it,” McJunkin told the Sun-Gazette.

Without the attempt to get federal funding for the repair of the cross-pipes and relief wells and any heightening and strengthening the levee requires to be certified, the city and its municipal partners could never afford it, according to Councilwoman Liz Miele, chairwoman of the city finance committee.

McJunkin said the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey and its impact on southeast Texas is huge, but it should not be a factor toward Keller working to obtain the federal grants, including new funding that may be available through the Army Corps of Engineers, she said.

“We’ve got a good man working on this,” Councilwoman Bonnie Katz, of the public works committee, said.