BY STACI WILSON
It was not a good summer for Susquehanna County offered Commissioner Alan Hall at the Wednesday, Sept. 26 meeting.
He was referring to the problems remaining following the August flash floods that caused widespread damage throughout the county.
The commissioner estimates about $10.5 million in damage roadways and claimed PennDOT does not have the assets to fix the problems.
“A lot of roads are unsafe to be on and should be closed,” he said, citing areas where the roads have caved in, or pavement completely torn up, or where there are no shoulders on the sides with drops about four feet deep.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone gets killed,” Hall said. “We pay the highest gas tax in the country and our roads are deplorable.”
Hall claimed that eight years ago the local PennDOT office employed over 100 people. But employees there now number about 70. He also said there was only one local PennDOT bridge crew.
“We have hundreds of bridges. They can’t get to them all,” he said.
As for the creeks, Hall offered up appreciation to several municipalities who have been working with property owners to fix problems. He cited work being done in Jessup, Franklin and New Milford townships. He also said a private individual in Hallstead worked to clear about 2,000 yards of Dubois Creek.
“Our creeks are in the worst shape they’ve ever been in,” Hall said, adding control, oversight and maintenance of streams does not fall under the purview of the county. He estimated work needed to clean the creeks could top $50 million.
“It’s not the county’s responsibility,” he said, “But we will do all we can to get townships all the help we can.”
Municipalities can apply for an NRCS grant to address concerns, but Hall warned municipal leaders to carefully read the funding guidelines that come with the grant. He said grant funds could only be used for homes and businesses within 50 feet of the stream.
Hall said the grant funds should be able to be used on any creek where its flow is affecting a home or property and urged residents to contact their federal legislators regarding the grant requirements.
As more rain and wind was expected on the day of the meeting, Hall said the county has heard that some residents – those not on a public water and sewer – were experiencing problems with their septic systems because of the precipitation.
As of last week, the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued over 150 emergency permits for stream clean-out work, removal of gravel bars and to stabilize banks. The emergency permits are issued at no charge.
But the 60-day window to obtain the emergency permits will soon come to a close.
Hall urged county residents to send photos of the road and stream conditions to state and federal lawmakers.
He said the state’s Secretary of Transportation, along with the Army Corps of Engineers will be invited to “see what’s going on the in the county.”
Hall did note that others areas – like Bradford County and those in the Carolinas – had been hit with worse damage in recent events.