Last updated: February 16. 2013 3:39PM - 491 Views

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Despite a plea from U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, West Pittston is still expected to be put on probation with the National Flood Insurance Program Oct. 1.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a news release Friday, stating the borough still is not compliant on several key issues.


The deficiencies include failure to manage floodplain development in accordance with the borough's floodplain program and lack of adequate record keeping. Direct violations of the West Pittston's flood damage prevention ordinance include lack of enforcement on substantially flood-damaged structures following the September 2011 flood.


If West Pittston fails to make progress, the borough could be suspended from the program, according to the FEMA news release.


The result of suspension is the loss of federally-backed flood insurance in the community, meaning that residents will not be able to purchase or renew their flood insurance policies after the suspension occurs, the news release said.


Additionally, if a flood disaster occurs in a suspended community, most types of federal disaster assistance for structures within the Special Flood Hazard Area, including federal assistance to individuals and households, is not available.


In late September 2011, West Pittston and many other towns along the Susquehanna and Lackawanna rivers were flooded when rains from Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene caused rivers to overflow.


If the borough is put on probation, flood insurance policyholders would face a $50 premium surcharge and borough officials would have to show major progress in six months or risk suspension from the flood insurance program, forcing the loss of grants and loans for structures in the flood zone.


Casey wrote a letter last month on behalf of the borough, asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to work with the borough to prevent such an occurrence. Casey issued a press release Friday, saying FEMA's decision was "unnecessary and counterproductive."


"Today's announcement that FEMA intends to put West Pittston on probationary status is an unnecessary and counterproductive decision that won't improve the area's flood plan and could result in higher flood insurance rates for residents," Casey said in a news release. "Instead of punishing West Pittston, FEMA should redouble its efforts to work with the community so that progress can be made on a flood protection plan. There's still time for FEMA to take a proactive approach here in a way that helps the residents."


West Pittston Borough Solicitor Mark Bufalino told The Times Leader newspaper that borough officials are developing and implementing corrective plans.


"Everything FEMA is asking of us, we continue to try to reply," Bufalino said. The federal government's compliance deadlines seem "slightly arbitrary" and have "added to the stress level in the already stressed-out community," he told the paper.


Property owners will still be able to purchase and renew flood insurance coverage during the probationary period, but a $50 surcharge will be added to each policy sold or renewed in the community beginning on Oct. 1, 2012.


West Pittston has 358 flood insurance policies in force with coverage totaling $73,191,100.


According to the release, FEMA remains committed to work with the officials of West Pittston to help the borough achieve a good standing.


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