Tonawanda News

August 21, 2013

State flood response still weeks away

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It will be at least another month before state officials decide what, if any, compensation will go to hundreds of residents who met at North Tonawanda City Hall last month to lodge complaints and damage assessments related to a July 19 storm that caused severe flooding to their homes and properties. 

Mayor Rob Ortt has been in contact with state representatives this week, according to his administrative assistant, Bob Welch, who added that correspondence directed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting updates on possible monetary compensation have been ignored. 

North Tonawanda saw 4.3 inches of rain in a two-hour period on July 19, with millions of gallons of water overtaking the city’s intake capacity. Representatives from the state Department of Financial Services met for one day at City Hall July 26 to collect data from residents regarding insurance claims. 

And while homeowners across the city — particularly in the Wurlitzer Park area — continue to clean up flooded basements, there are still no guarantees that they will be compensated by the state. 

“We’re continuing to look at it and follow-up with the state,” said Welch, speaking on behalf of Ortt, who did not attend the council meeting Tuesday. 

Adding to the steady stream of residents who have attended recent North Tonawanda Common Council meetings, Judy Smolka, who lives on Drake Drive, said Tuesday in front of the council that she is still reeling from the devastating rains that caused massive flooding on her property. 

With more than $3,000 paid out of pocket to professionally clean her flooded basement, which Smolka said was mostly refinished, she and many of her neighbors are still waiting word after meeting with the state representatives.  

“I lost a lot,” said Smolka, who like many city residents had to move a volume of items stored in her basements to other areas of the home or put some to the curb as refuse. “I’m just hoping that something can be done for us.” 

Over the course of the last month, complaints related to the July storm have become standard during council meetings. Officials say they are preparing a more permanent solution: Gas-powered generators will appear in this year’s budget, they say, which will be connected to pump stations and help alleviate some flooding-related issues. 

A more comprehensive plan is also in the works that would chip away at the city’s antiquated sewer and water lines, according to interviews with council members and Ortt conducted over the last month. 

“We’re looking at longer-term solutions,” said Council President Rich Andres on Tuesday. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.