A sizeable crowd turned up for Thursday's Muncy Borough Council meeting, where U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, spoke about the effects of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act on local homes and businesses.
About 25 people gathered to hear from Marino before council's usual meeting - too many for the board room at Myers Elementary where the meetings are typically held.
After some quick rearrangement by elementary maintenance staff, the meeting was moved to the auditorium.
Marino - who also spoke at a meeting at Muncy Bank and Trust Co. Wednesday about the insurance reform - stressed that the financial burdens the new rates are placing on homes and businesses are enormously damaging.
"I talked to a business owner from Jersey Shore yesterday whose rates are going up from $2,800 a year to almost $40,000 a year," he said.
Marino said he favors repealing the entire law and creating a new one, based on newer, more comprehensive affordability and accountability studies, because delaying implementation of the existing law "is not a fix."
"That's just kicking the can down the road," he said.
Audience members told Marino their own stories about the impact of the new premiums, including Larry Michael, of Wolf Township, who explained that he had decided against purchasing and renovating a property because of the increased rates.
"No one would buy it once they found out how much flood insurance would cost," he said. The property is currently in foreclosure, he added.
Jeff Smead, of Muncy, told Marino that he knows of at least 70 homes near the Muncy Valley Hospital that are now in the floodplain because of the new mapping, and none of them have any idea of what's coming in terms of insurance rates.
"We appreciate you coming here to talk to us and what you're doing in Washington," he said, "but we don't have a lot of time."
Muncy resident Josh Ely said he has started a petition to repeal the law, which already has 190 signatures in two days' time.
Also present at the meeting was Ed Feigles of Lycoming County Planning & Community Development, who said that a community meeting is being planned for late January that will help local residents better understand flood risk and prevention.
That meeting, he said, will invite residents to hear from surveyors, engineers and other professionals who will explain things like flood mitigation techniques.
Once their usual meeting got underway, council approved the continued use of the current memorandum of understanding with the West Branch Regional Authority until January, when the authority will sign off on a new agreement.
The measure was approved 7-0; voting in favor were Dana Bertin, Jonathan Ort, Galen Betzer, Richard Baker, Matilda Noviello, Linda Stein and Elaine McAleer.
Council also voted to approve Guarantee Ordinance No. 526, which allows a $3.9 million loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority for keeping current with sewer repairs that are mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The measure was approved 7-0.
The new 2-year contract for Police Chief John Dorman was also unanimously approved by council. Chief Dorman will receive a salary of $51,000 in 2014; $52,020 in 2015; and $53,060 in 2016. Dorman will also receive $600 per year for replacement or purchase of uniforms or equipment and $300 every six months for use of his personal cellphone.
Council also was presented with new quotes for life insurance and disability for municipal employees. Council approved a policy from Nationwide Insurance, which will be managed by local agent Jeffrey Winters, by a vote of 6-0; Noviello abstained.
Council also unanimously approved, pending a final legal review, the reimbursement from PennDOT of $237,000 for the Washington and Water Streets Scape project.
The meeting 2014 council meeting dates were also approved and will be the first Tuesday and third Monday of every month.
The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 6 at Myers Elementary, 125 New St., for reorganization purposes.