The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 23, 2013

$600G grant to fund bulldozing of 3 flood-prone houses

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

LEWISBURG — LEWISBURG — Borough Council has used a $600,000 grant to purchase three of 10 homes along South Sixth Street that will be destroyed in a flood mitigation and greenway project to Bucknell University, Borough Manager Chad Smith says.

“The cost of purchase, demolition and legal fees are all inclusive in the grants,” Smith said.

Lewisburg in May announced it had received federal funds nearing $3 million.

Smith’s announcement of the use of federal funds debunks fears that the property purchases are to blame for a 2-mill real-estate tax increase in 2014, which Borough Council approved last week.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the funding to address repeated flooding of several properties in Lewisburg. The borough will acquire and demolish 10 houses along the east side of South Sixth Street.

The properties, bordered by Limestone Run, commonly known as Bull Run, were identified as the most vulnerable to flooding and took especially large hits in the September 2011 floods.

The borough has $2.7 million in funds from hazard mitigation and repetitive flood-plain relief grants to buy and clear the properties, Smith said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency are administered by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

The project currently calls for no local contributions — or match, a portion typically required with a grant, Smith said.

“The loss of revenue based on real estate value of those properties ... is roughly $15,000 per year,” he said. An engineers assessment of the 10 properties, typically rented to Bucknell students, found the homes were “not favorable” to keep or renovate given the flood-prone nature of the neighborhood.

“The justification was yes, we’re losing that amount but how can you turn down close to $3 million that we never would have had otherwise” to address the section, Smith said.

Receiving funding for the project was contingent on demonstrating a positive benefit-cost ratio. After studying the economics of the proposals, FEMA determined removing the 10 structures was more economically beneficial to taxpayers than repeatedly paying for flood insurance claims and other costs related to the flooding of these properties.

Acquiring and demolishing all the structures is expected to be completed by 2015.