Slow and steady

Deteriorating infrastructure dogs Honesdale residents

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/19/22

HONESDALE, PA — Officials in Honesdale have a plan to eventually fix the borough’s declining infrastructure, which appears to worsen with every significant rainstorm. But progress has …

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Slow and steady

Deteriorating infrastructure dogs Honesdale residents

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — Officials in Honesdale have a plan to eventually fix the borough’s declining infrastructure, which appears to worsen with every significant rainstorm. But progress has been slow, and the stormwater issues residents face are constant.

According to councilor and stormwater committee chair James Jennings, Honesdale’s major infrastructure dates back to the 1950s. There have been some upgrades since then, but not enough to handle the annual rainfall. It’s a common occurrence throughout the region’s rainy spring and summer months to see properties damaged, storm pipes collapsed, and streets washed out.

At the April 11 borough council meeting, Karin Hemkes, who lives in the Crestmont Development—or “what’s left of it”—near Honesdale High School, described the shape of her neighborhood as a result of years of severe flooding.

“We have huge holes, bigger than there were before. We have seven giant pipes in the yard, three feet across and maybe 16 to 20-feet long, taking up the entire yard,” she told the councilors. “Our driveway is caving in. Our retaining wall is falling down. All of these things need to be fixed, and we can’t touch them until [your stormwater project] gets done.”

She said that the borough has previously promised that its stormwater repairs would have been completed by now.

“The last time we were here, it was stated that everything would get done before the end of last year… it all just never happened,” she said.

The borough received $500,000 in state funding last summer to get things moving and to kickstart the Vine Street Stormwater Mitigation Project. Vine Street is a very steep stretch of road above downtown Honesdale and one of the biggest problem areas for flood management, but the project is also slated to cover 140 acres, including Crestmont Development, Ridge and Terrace streets, all situated on a steep hill, from which rainwater runs down and culminates on Fourth Street downtown.

A stormwater water task force has been meeting with stakeholders and working with an engineering firm, but not much tangible progress has been realized yet.

Hemkes said that her neighbor has issues on his property that have also been exacerbated by stormwater. She said that, given the interconnectedness of these problems, things should be addressed all at once, rather than staggering the projects out over time.

“One [problem] leads into the other, and if the road were to be ripped up once, put back together, then ripped up again… it would make no sense whatsoever,” she said. “It needs to be a one-shot deal.”

Jennings apologized to Hemkes for the slow pace and agreed with her recommendation. He promised to provide her with a timeline from the engineer soon.

“It shouldn’t take this long, and I do apologize for that… And what you’re saying is absolutely correct: It all should be one project.” he said. “I don’t want to Band-Aid things anymore... I don’t want to have to revisit this project in 10 years, I want this to work for the next 50, 100 years.”

Part of the delay could be due to the fact that, given the nature of running water, Honesdale may feel the brunt of stormwater’s impacts, but they originate in places outside of its jurisdiction, like on Wayne Highlands School District property and in Texas Township. These are some of the stakeholders present at task force meetings.

Corey Hemkes, Karin’s husband, also approached the microphone to say that it’s not just about when it gets done, but whether or not affected homeowners are staying in the loop.

“It’s not a point of coordinating getting stuff done… I know you guys are working on it. The point of the matter is you guys have got to keep us informed. We’re not informed,” he said, reiterating that they were promised the project would be done by the end of the year, but have not heard anything from the borough since December. “It’s hurting us as homeowners… we’re stuck.”

Bob Vonson, another resident, took the podium as well. He said that he’s also been awaiting answers from the borough about property damage he’s faced as a result of flooding, and when he can expect to see some progress made.

“Time is of the essence… the distance of the sinkholes in relation to my foundation is lessening with every storm. My upper yard, rear yard, lower yard, front yard, driveway is all damaged,” he said. “I think the public should be invited [to stormwater task force meetings]; I think they should hear what some of us are living through in real time. I don’t think they’re paying attention.”

Council president James Hamill reiterated that even though it’s a slow process, officials have indeed been working on this issue.

“There is a lot of work happening, in spite of the fact that you don’t have your project complete,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us to do what we can do with what we have, and the effort is being made, especially from the stormwater committee; they’re hustling.”

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