BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Governor Andrew Cuomo brought up the possibility of buyouts for West Seneca flood victims after his major announcement about IBM bringing 500 jobs to Buffalo on Monday.
The governor says he has been speaking with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz about the serious issues faced by flood victims. Normally, when homes are bought by the government from the original owners, it has to begin at the federal level, such as what took place for victims of Hurricane Sandy. But Poloncarz says he and the governor are exploring having it happen at a state level.
“You know, we’re seeing across the state a different weather pattern. You have some areas that never saw flooding in 100 years, now they’re flooding all the time,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I’m going to be talking to legislators about a program that allows the state to actually buyout homeowners because there are some places that we shouldn’t have built in the first place.”
Both the governor and Poloncarz agree this proposal would not be an easy venture, but they have begun to explore it as a possibility.
“It’s definitely interesting. It’s something that we’re going to have to look at if that’s something that does come through. We’re going to have to weigh both sides of it. Is it something that’s effective for our family, for our finances,” said West Seneca resident Stephanie Serrano.
Serrano and her family have been staying with her parents for weeks because her family’s home sustained so much damage. But still, she would prefer not to have to sell it to the state.
She said, “It’s not just a house; it’s not just a structure. It’s our lives.”
Monday night, the West Seneca Town Board voted to take the first step towards finding a permanent solution to the flooding, which could take years. Officials also floated a temporary fix that may get residents through the next thaw.
The town has decided to ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study on how to alleviate flooding issues, which will likely involve somehow improving the berm.
West Seneca Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan said, “We as a town are responsible as of this moment and the moment this happened, as we have, to react to the situation in a positive manner that is going to have a positive impact in the families that were hit by this. And we are doing that.”
For the immediate future, the town engineer says it’s possible to beef up an existing berm with sandbags and jersey barriers to make the berm longer and possibly keep the water from Buffalo Creek from infiltrating Lexington Green and Gregory Drive.
“That may be one thing that we do,” said town engineer Rick Henry. “We’ve got to make that decision quickly and get in and do that.”
Henry says there’s a 10-day window of cold weather that would work in the town’s favor should officials decide to try to improve the berm.