West Seneca residents wonder where flood money is going

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that New York State is sending the Town of West Seneca $500,000 in reimbursement for last January’s flooding on Lexington Green, Gregory Lane and Brian Lane.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Governor’s office for the help,” said West Seneca Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan. “It’s a good day for West Seneca. Being able to help people is what we’re here for.”

But that news was met with mixed feelings on the part of people who live in those neighborhoods, who wonder exactly where that money is going.

“Since last January, I’ve seen someone working on the corner of Gregory and Brian. I’ve seen bulldozers up on Indian Church Road near the fork. I’ve seen them pulling out tree stumps near the Harlem Road bridge, but I don’t know where the tree stumps were,” Lorry Gburek, who lives on Brian Lane, told News 4 on Thursday.

“The Town of West Seneca owes us – the residents of this neighborhood that was flooded – an explanation of what they are planning on doing, what they have done. We have no information,” Gburek said. “No one tells us anything.”

Meegan explained that part of the reimbursement money will fill budget gaps left by the emergency response to the flooding.

“We had highway funds, sanitation funds, the police department, engineering, building and plumbing, my office. Whether it was equipment, fuel, overtime, it was a huge hit to the 2014 budget,” she said.

The rest is helping to pay for removal of sand, stone, and debris from Buffalo Creek. Historically, the town has never done that kind of work.

But thanks to permission from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Meegan said that from now on yearly creek cleanup will be the town Highway Department’s responsibility.

“You and I both know, when you clean out a creek, 18 months later, the work is gone. What we want to see is to be able to continue that maintenance, and keep that in place. And that is something that we didn’t have, because we [didn't] have control of the creek,” Meegan said. Now, “it’s going to be part of the day-to-day, if you will.”

The goal is to prevent another flood from happening. But Gburek and some of her neighbors worry that dredging up the shoals, widening or deepening the creek won’t be enough.

“They should have done more work,” Dan Sell, who also lives on Brian Lane, said. “When I heard they were only going to do that curve [in the creek], that scares me. I don’t have enough to recoup next time. It took me everything, on this one.

Sell estimates the damage to his basement cost him $18,000 to $19,000. He has moved all his possessions, including his washer, dryer, and furnace, to the main floor of his home.

“I’m scared to death of this flooding! I mean, the people on Lexington Green actually got it from the creek. I got it from the sewer on the corner. What are they doing about that sewer?” Gburek asked. “More needs to be done. Can’t they do some kind of shut-off valve that closes off this sewer, so we will not get flooded?”

She looked over toward her next-door neighbor’s. The damage to his home totaled about $200,000, she said. He still hasn’t moved back in.

“I would like to see the residents get some of the money back,” she said.

The residents have been holding monthly meetings for the last eight months. Town officials are expected to join them, and answer their questions, at their next meeting. It’s scheduled for Wednesday, September 10 at 6:00 p.m. at Covenant United Methodist Church, 539 Main Street in West Seneca.

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