Honesdale braces for storms, rejects park
HONESDALE, PA — Even before the September 10 Honesdale Borough Council meeting agenda began, emergency management coordinator Stan Pratt had an agenda of his own: Hurricane Florence. “According to the latest weather forecasts, Florence is heading this way,” said Pratt. Florence, a powerful category-four storm as of press time, predicted to make landfall in the southern mid-Atlantic seaboard region, could have implications for Northeast PA.
Pratt told the council that its members must complete at least two National Incident Management System courses for the borough to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) emergency funding. Although both courses can be completed online, Pratt noted that an active hurricane season has created new urgency for instruction that has been available for more than a year.
As he distributed FEMA booklets titled “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK)” to meeting attendees, Pratt had advice for residents, “Be prepared for power outages. If you have a well and no access to city water supply, draw water for storage now. Stock up on essential supplies in advance of the storm.”
The 36-page booklet (publication number FEMA P-1075) was published in March 2018 and is available for free as a download at www.ready.gov/financialpreparedeness and at www.operationhope.org. Print copies can be obtained by calling 800/480-2520. An introductory message from FEMA and Operation HOPE, Inc. says studies show that less affluent Americans are generally less able to prepare for emergencies with rainy-day savings, supply stockpiles and insurance policies against catastrophic damage. The booklet is a guide to the many things that can be done to prepare for and recover from emergency situations that bring financial hardship. It also refers readers to information on personal disaster preparedness and FEMA disaster assistance, available at www.ready.gov and www.disasterassistance.gov.
Pratt said the borough has an emergency plan document in place but noted that it needs tweaking.
Following Pratt’s address, the council heard several residents complain loudly about designation of a new park. Residents of East Street were opposed to the park in a residential area that once housed a shoe factory. Their reaction caught the council off guard.
Parks and Recreation Committee chair James Jennings explained the rationale behind the park’s creation. The borough-owned vacant lot property was ineligible for sale, had fallen into disrepair, was attracting loiterers and litter, and placed an annual $400 tax burden on residents. Jennings, who grew up on East Street and played in that street, thought the family-friendly neighborhood could use a dedicated space for children to play safely. In addition, designation of the space as a public park makes it a tax-free zone.
Before declaring it a park, however, the borough tried unsuccessfully to auction it off. Twice it put the property up for bid. Hoping for a minimum bid of the property’s (confidential) assessed value, it received one bid only, for $15,000, less than the assessed value. The second bid notice produced no bids.
Residents pointed out that Honesdale already has eight parks, that maintenance costs exceed the $400 annual tax, and that the space would be ideal for residential construction. They asked the borough to put it up for bid again.
Also park related, Sue Erb, wife of Rector Edward Erb of Grace Episcopal Church, asked the council to place working restrooms in Central Park. Park visitors use the restrooms at Grace Church whose doors are always open, creating a financial burden for the church.