Rich Sheldon, left, is about to lend a hand to Jack Costello in the “Costellos’ Pond” at the Costellos’ house located at the corner of Rt. 52 and Creekside Dr. in Kohlertown. This was during one of four floods in 10 days suffered by residents.
Kohlertown residents speak out on flooding issue
By Jeanne Sager
HORTONVILLE They were looking for help, but residents of the frequently flooded Kohlertown section of Delaware got frustration fed back to them from their politicians Wednesday evening.
Residents packed the meeting room atop the town hall to a standing-room only capacity, because, as Tammy Frazier explained to the board, “We need help, obviously Kohlertown can’t do it alone.”
Their frustrations centered largely on the Hess Brook, which runs straight through the area. When Frazier was a child, she remembers walking and fishing beneath the bridges of the brook. These days, the bed is so full of silt and gravel, she can’t even crawl below them.
“How come none of our brooks have been dredged or anything?” Frazier asked. “Nothing’s been done, no debris, nothing whatsoever has been worked on.”
The problem, the board replied, is a mix. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issues few permits for disturbing the waters and cleaning debris, fewer still for gravel removal.
And without declarations of a state of emergency from the state and federal government, there is no funding to do the work even when permits are secured.
“They tie our hands the same way they tie yours,” Councilman John Gain explained.
The last work, Highway Superintendent Bill Eschenberg said, was done after the flood of June 2006, stretches from behind the Kubota dealership in Kohlertown straight down to near the Pilny residence were cleaned out.
“The following flood came,” he said, “and put it all back.”
That’s the problem with leaving the flood remediation in the hands of private landowners, resident Fred Verderber told the town. One landowner obtains a permit and cleans out their section of the brook or creek, but when landowners next door don’t do the same thing, it negates any progress made.
“You’ve got to start at the Delaware River and work up,” Verderber requested.
Also leading the requests was a demand that the town create a fund specific to flood remediation, setting monies aside to address not just current problems but future issues.
“You’ve done a good job holding the line on taxes, but maybe you’ve got to spend some money,” Mike Schwartz said.
It’s a consideration Eschenberg said he put forth to the town at the most recent budget workshop, “so the highway department doesn’t have to be the bank for the floods.”
Town Supervisor Jim Scheutzow warned residents that anything of the sort will result in a tax increase.
But for residents like Frazier, who said they’re going to be grieving their taxes anyway now that her house is in a flood zone a tax increase would be worth it if it changed the status quo.
This summer alone, Frazier said she bought three water pumps at a cost of $225 apiece because floodwaters destroyed them one by one. She spent several days with a hose running into her home to supply her family with water, had to send her kids away while she made repairs.
“Aside from just our property, it’s our safety, our children’s safety,” resident Katie Herbert said of the problems. With four young kids, Herbert is afraid each time she has to evacuate. And she can’t send her kids out to play when floodwaters continuously strew her lawn with broken glass.
It comes down to public safety, Schwartz reminded the board.
The residents secured promises from the board to send letters to state and federal officials, with Councilman Matt Hofer requesting residents put together a petition that can be attached, along with pictures of the devastation.
“Besides us sending a letter, the more voices makes a point,” Hofer added, putting a portion of the fight back on the residents’ backs.
“We cannot do it all by ourselves,” Frazier reminded the board “that’s why we’re all here.”