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Freeholders Push Flood Mitigation Effort Forward

Ten months post-Irene, owners of 26 flood-damaged Parsippany homes finally may be able to move on from the disaster.

The Morris County Freeholders gave the go-ahead to releasing matching funds to a county effort to buy severely flood-damaged properties in four municipalities including Parsippany. If the measure wins final approval, 26 township properties can become permanently preserved open space.

The purchases would be made under the new Morris County Flood Mitigation Program, and would cover a total of 67 properties in Parsippany, Denville, Pequannock and Lincoln Park.

With the freeholders' preliminary approval, it authorized spending $5 million in county grant funds to provide a 25 percent match for the $14.5 million in Hurricane Irene hazard mitigation funds received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to Jennifer McCulloch, the program's coordinator.

"FEMA pays municipalities 75 percent of the cost, and this will cover the other 25 percent," she explained, "Parsippany can begin to prepare to move forward." 

The freeholders' final approval, she added, will cover the individual properties allowed to be purchased. 

But the money is available now, McCulloch said: The four towns may now proceed with their “due diligence,” including appraisals, surveys, environmental assessments and negotiating a purchase price with homeowners.

Morris County will provide up to 75 percent of the $1.2 million acquisition costs with the remainder provided by the state Department of Envinronmental Protection's Green Acres program, McCulloch said.

The freeholders established the Flood Mitigation Program last March in response to increased, repetitive flooding in the county, especially the excessive flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011, said Freeholder Ann Grossi, a Parsippany resident.

“Hurricane Irene brought to our attention the cycle of repetitive flooding that so many of our communities are struggling with,” Grossi said. “In the wake of that disaster, the freeholders felt strongly that a more proactive approach could be developed to permanently move people out of harm’s way and reduce the destruction from flooding.”

The freeholder noted this is the first county-level dedicated flood mitigation program in the state.

“The main objectives of the program are to move people out of harm’s way and create natural, sustainable flood storage areas which protect the remaining homeowners, businesses and properties,” McCulloch said.

The Flood Mitigation program is an expansion of the Morris County Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. It was initially funded by $16 million of unencumbered funds allocated to the Morris County Agriculture Development Board, Grossi said.

Future funding levels for the program will be determined on an annual basis. 
Committee members operate within a unique set of regulations created specifically for this program, and they report directly to the freeholder board.

Under the program's terms, grant applications will be considered from municipalities only for the acquisition of residences, and lands associated with the residences, that have experienced either severe repetitive flooding, or homes that have sustained over 50 percent damage from a single flood event, said McCulloch.

Applications not funded through this program may subsequently apply to the traditional Morris County Open Space Program for funding to purchase the land only.

Costs for demolition, elevation or other non-acquisition mitigation techniques are not eligible under the county’s program.

Mcculloch said the program will work only with willing homeowners, and that all funds would go directly to the municipality, which will then buy the land and maintain it as public, open space in perpetuity.

Those who need additional information can find it at the Morris County Department of Planning and Development or call Jennifer McCulloch at 973-829-8120.



Bob Crawford June 01, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Perhaps an issue of even greater importance is what has been done over the past 10 months by Parsippany's elected officials to ensure that should another storm (similar to Irene) occur that the residents of Lake Hiawatha won't suffer the same devastating consequences. Have revised water management policies been introduced? Have energency response lessons been learned and acted upon? Have repairs been made to the restraining wall along River Road?. Mayor Barberio what reassurance can you give to Parsippany residents that the next time won't be like the last time, Leadership is all about being proactive and creative. What say you Mr Mayor?
Carol M. June 02, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Really Mr Crawford? Irene was a 500 year storm so no. there is NO ISSUE OF GREATER IMPORTANCE then poviding relief to those who are still reeling from the devastating effects of that and all energies should rightfully be focused there. 10 months displaced from their homes without the knowledge or comfort of knowing how they might get relief from their burdens is a long time; 10 months out of the time needed to get ready in 499 years or even 99 years isn't even worthy of a mention. How does someone put the need to find fault in our Mayor or our Town Council above the most important goal right now which should be helping those in need. Set it aside, your real character and motivation are showing at the expense of those with hardships. Aide for those in need can't come quick enough and I'm grateful for the energy and efforts of our Freeholders, our Mayor and our Town Council for everything they have done to help get the funds available to hopefully start these families on the road to relief; I'm sure that anyone with even the slightest warmth in their heart feels the same.
Bob Crawford June 02, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Yes , really, Carol M How do you know that another "500 year storm" or a "100 year storm" or a destructive "50 year storm" couldn't occur next week, Seems to be a function of weather patterns rather than the passage of time. By the way successful leaders need to be able to multi task and I'll bet anyone who was impacted by the storm would, after 10 months, like some reassurance from our elected leaders that active efforts are underway to identify and understand what, in the immediate future could be done differently or better.This isn't a matter of having or not having a "warm heart" . It is a a matter of having some common sense and learning from the past in order to prepare for the future.Surely you would agree that that is not an unreasonable expectation of our elected leaders given what Parsippany experienced 10 months ago when Irene hit.
VietNam Vet June 03, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Bob, I have to agree with you on this, the Mayor hasn't done a thing to the WALL and I don't think he will ever do anything. He kept telling th people down the lower end that the town didn't have the money to spend to fix the wall. I would like to know since he is so interested in keeping the surplus of $7.4 million dollars in the sewer fund, then why can't he use that money to fix some thing around here. Maybe the Wall to protect the people in the future from anymore problems and the lower end of Vail Road near Carlson Pl. The road just keeps on sinking in and instead of finding the problem and fix it once and for all, he just lets the road dept come out and pave over it again and again. This is just putting a band-aid over the real problem, like why does the road keep sinking, is it an underground spring or a water main break that they don't want to fix? When are they ever going to do something right in this town, instead of blow taxpayers money on stupid projects? I am very happy that someone is going to help the flood victims, I think they have suffered enough, 10 months out of their homes and still not knowing if they will ever be able to return. They need some closure on this night mare. I aplaud the county for their help for these people.
Carol M. June 03, 2012 at 12:01 PM
We have heard about the steps taken by officials to address the issues that played a role in the devastation over the last 10 months so it appears they have managed to multi task just fine along the way and it is absolutely reasonable to expect that. What is not reasonable is your need to take a jab at our elected officials during the good news about some much needed relief headed the way of those in need. Perhaps you feel it appropriate to elevate that as an item of greater importance then getting relief to these families but again, those with heart know that energies and efforts to get as much help to these families as quickly as possible should be priority number one and thankfully our Freeholders, Mayor and Town Council get that.
Scott June 04, 2012 at 12:22 PM
As someone who has been waiting ever so patiently for this, I am grateful that something is finally being done. I look forward to putting this completely behind me and allowing me and my ever so helpful family and friends move on to the next steps.

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