Follansbee Council to pursue flood prevention

FOLLANSBEE — On Tuesday, Follansbee Council agreed to team with the Army Engineer Corps in seeking a solution to flooding from Allegheny Creek.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. said an emergency meeting was called following this week’s regular work session so council could approve an application for the Army Engineering Corps’ Planning Assistance to the States program.

City Manager John DeStefano said through the program, the corps will provide up to $40,000, to be matched locally, for a study of water flowing into the creek, which flooded more than 100 homes, 30 businesses and two churches following heavy rainfall in July 2016.

DeStefano said the local match may come from the city and other sources, and there are plans to approach local representatives to the state Legislature and county officials for assistance.

Because the creek itself is the responsibility of the state, some concerns were raised about whether funding such a study would leave the city liable for future flooding.

But council members unanimously supported the move, with a few stating the city should attempt to prevent future flooding.

Noting the city assumed about $500,000 in cleanup costs from the flood, 4th Ward Councilman Rudy Cipriani said, “I’d much rather spend money trying to fix it.”

DeStefano said there are plans in future water and sewer projects to alleviate flooding related to drainage systems in the city.

Also during the emergency session, DeStefano was authorized to discuss the possible sale of city property to a local developer.

In recent months council was asked to consider giving up space in a city parking lot by the former Eagles Lodge to ease access to the building.

In other business, 5th Ward Councilman Scott McMahon said traffic congestion at the north end of Main Street, particularly during rush hour, should be addressed.

He said often traffic is backed up from Mark Avenue but then flows smoothly after that, and he believes the timing of traffic signals along the street, which is part of state Route 2, are to blame.

DeStefano said when the signals were off during a recent power outage, there was no congestion. He said state highway officials have agreed to study the situation with the help of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Council also discussed replacing playground equipment at city parks.

DeStefano said some companies offer special deals on equipment purchased in the fall for installation in the spring.

McMahon said council should apply $80,000 budgeted for the parks to new equipment at the smaller parks and allocate another $80,000 for improvements to Follansbee Park while considering what it wants to do there.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)