HONESDALE, PA —Public Works director Richard Doney and borough councilor James Jennings delivered sobering remarks about Honesdale’s damaged infrastructure at the last borough council …
HONESDALE, PA —Public Works director Richard Doney and borough councilor James Jennings delivered sobering remarks about Honesdale’s damaged infrastructure at the last borough council meeting on Monday, July 8. Heavy rainfall has caused severe damage throughout the area, and reparation will come at a steep price to a community already monetarily “strapped,” as Doney put it.
Despite the expense, Jennings emphasized the need for the council to act quickly. “This is a major issue,” said Jennings. “We’ve got to come up with a plan. We’ll come up with a plan shortly.”
At the meeting, Doney explained that the pipes running beneath the borough’s roadways are rusted out at the bottom. Couple that with all the rain the area’s received this year, which washes away the ground below the pipes, and the results include collapsed pipes, unsafe roadways, flooding and sinkholes. David Mitchell of the Wayne Conservation District (WCD) said that acid rain also exacerbates the erosion of these pipes.
Honesdale’s vulnerability to excess stormwater was made evident earlier this year. A washed-away stormwater pipe on Shuman Road created a large cavity in the road. After a major storm on May 22 caused damage and created safety risks, a culvert needed immediate replacement on State Route 191. Borough officials held an urgent meeting on May 31, where they declared a state of emergency and decided to contact the local banks about borrowing $200,000 to address the various safety issues.
In addition to the culvert on State Route 191—which is now all but completed—Doney has identified a number of problems around town, some he considers more pressing than others. He called the frequent flooding of Fourth Street due to a collapsed outlet pipe “priority one,” and estimated that the project would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to complete.
Further up on the hill, a pipe running beneath Vine Street and the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist church has eroded completely. Doney said this will eventually cause a collapse, but also said he will not yet replace the pipe on borough property because the church cannot currently afford to finish the project on its property.
“Right now I’m going to monitor [Vine Street]; the road is still safe, but, once there’s an issue, that road will be closed when that pipe does collapse,” Doney said.
There is also a stormwater project involving a pipe beneath U.S. Route 6 West that Doney said is still in the planning stages, saying that the stretch of road is safe for the time-being and that the project has been put “on the backburner” so that public works can focus on more urgent projects.
One of those higher priority projects does not involve a pipe, but bank erosion on both sides of Blake’s Creek, which begins near Honesdale High School, crosses Terrace Street and runs down the hill toward town. Doney met with the WCD and the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to discuss the matter.
Mitchell, who handles borough-related WCD issues, said that the eroding bank presents a safety risk on one side and property damage risk for a resident on the other. The borough plans to construct a retaining wall—a project Doney stressed must be completed this year, preferably within the next two months.
Borough secretary Judith Poltanis argued that all these different issues point to one conclusion: Honesdale needs a proper stormwater maintenance plan built into the 2020 budget so that public works can work proactively, rather than scramble to fix problems as they arise.
However, creating a stormwater plan for the entire borough is easier—and cheaper—said than done. This year, without enough money to do all of it, Doney has been forced to compare roads that need stormwater repairs against roads that need repaving, and decide which projects should be completed and which should be delayed. Jennings also pointed out that with only a four-person team, it is not easy for public works to address stormwater issues on top of all their other responsibilities in the borough.
Despite these challenges, Jennings said that stormwater management will be the prime concern when developing the 2020 budget.
Mitchell predicted that a full plan would involve more prioritizing, similar to the kind Doney has been doing this year: quickly determining where the concerns are and evaluating which require more immediate attention.
“You would note where you have problems, and then you would study those areas to see if something couldn’t be done to lessen the effect or prevent it from happening in the future; that’s kind of where stormwater plans go,” he said.
In the meantime, Jennings advises borough residents to keep an eye on their own stormwater issues and to take steps to control the drainage on their property. He said that they can contact either the WCD or the borough council for help.