TYRONE - Borough officials are readying for the next step in updating its flood maps, but there are concerns about the participation of residents in the process.
Mayor William Fink said borough leaders and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to meet with the 46 property owners who are eligible now to be moved from the flood plain, but only 17 attended either of two meetings last week.
"To get the full benefit from this, everybody who is involved in it - property owners, homeowners, businesses - they've got to get behind this and get this thing moving," Fink said.
To officially move the properties, and thereby lower the costs of flood insurance, the homeowners must apply to FEMA for a Letter of Map Agreement, which means the move is approved. The borough would like to apply for all 46 properties simultaneously, Fink said, but to do that copies of all of the deeds are required.
Fink said that borough officials could go to the county for copies of the deeds, but they are hoping to reach out to residents that didn't attend the meetings to get the needed documents.
Craig Thomas, who works at the Corps of Engineers' Baltimore office and the study's author, said that those chose not to attend the sessions may not have any loans out on their homes, and are not required to have flood insurance. However, he said that should they sell those properties, the incoming homeowner will be required to get flood insurance if they seek a federally regulated loan for the purchase.
Though acquiring the letters may not immediately affect these homeowners, Fink said the borough
doesn't want to have to apply more than once to FEMA.
"I don't think a lot of these homeowners understand that it's going to hold up our submission to FEMA for these other people," Fink said.
Those who were in attendance at the meetings, though, were actively involved in the process and well-informed, Thomas said.
He said he was pleasantly surprised by how knowledgeable these residents were.
"They were very engaged," Thomas said. "I was very happy, and I know the borough was pleased."
Representatives from other municipalities may also be taking the first steps toward new flood mapping. Bellwood Borough Council President Herb Shelow and Council Vice President John Winesickle attended one of the sessions, and conferred with Thomas about their own storm water issues.
No official meetings have been scheduled, but bringing the Corps in to analyze Bellwood is possible, Thomas said.
"They were definitely interested," he said.
This is not the end of the Corps' work, however, he said. Applying for these letters will help some people immediately, Thomas said, but the Corps is still working to prepare flooding mitigation alternatives for the borough, which will reduce damages. There is still "plenty of work to do" on this front, he said.
The complete map update will take time as well, Thomas said. Though the Corps of Engineers has submitted its completed study to FEMA, it could take more than two years before the maps are updated. When this occurs, more than 100 additional properties will likely be moved from the flood plain, he said.
Fink's first campaign for mayor centered around flood and storm water mapping, and he said he is pleased to see things moving forward.
"We're trying to do the right thing here," he said. "Tyrone is going to be in a position where businesses aren't going to be afraid to come here."
Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.