Township explores solutions in flood aftermath

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

    Weeks after floodwaters recede, problems remain Andover — Members of the township committee and the township attorney cautiously responded to inquiries from residents about the flooding repercussions on properties within the township at their meeting on Monday Oct. 24. “What is the town going to do about the drainage, and my neighbor redirecting water onto my property?” Linda Leenstra asked. The Leenstra property on Limecrest Road has been one of focal points in the township after the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The foundation of the home was caved-in by flooding on Sept. 9. The Leenstras have not been able to return to their home since, and family members are staying in three different locations throughout the county, while the family works with FEMA on other solutions to return to their home. Problems have been ongoing over the last 15 years prior to the storms, Leenstra said. Shirley Sullivan, another township resident, asked questions as well about the situation on Leenstra’s behalf. Municipal Attorney Fred Semrau said the township has considered correspondence they have received about the Leenstra property situation as potentially litigious, has met with the county, and is working with the township engineer to gather data. “I don’t have all the details,” said Semrau. When Sullivan pressed further about whether the letters the township received were truly representative of potential litigation, Semrau continued, “there could be an accusation, and I think we have to protect all the interests of the taxpayers,” said Semrau. The main issue Sullivan inquired about is who is responsible where the drains connect at the footing of the Leenstra property. “We’re trying to look at all the components,” Semrau said. Committee member Tom Walsh said the township’s portion of the drain has been cleared since the first storm. Pam Iberer was another resident who showed up at the meeting to inquire about resolution of the post-flooding issues. “We are looking at all these cases and what we can do and what is the responsibility of the homeowner,” Mayor Phil Boyce said. Walsh said the water table has risen since Limecrest has ceased pumping at their property and the recent storms have exacerbated the problem. Both factors have caused drainage and flooding issues in different areas throughout the township. “You can’t fix one and not the other,” Walsh said. “It’s very touchy, and not an easy fix.” Committee member Gail Phoebus reported the township took on 16 inches of rain over a two-week period. “No town in New Jersey was prepared for this much rain,” Boyce interjected. Walsh said that township engineer Joe Golden has been calculating the damage caused from the past two storms and added it to prior figures from issues at Lake Iliff and Lake Lenape, for which he began a study in 2005. Golden put a price tag of $35 million for repairs between the accumulated issues from 2005 through the present. Walsh said the only way to afford it would be a public bond which would have an impact on taxes for 20 to 30 years. “Are we smart to spend $35 million for a problem which may not happen in another 100 years?” Boyce asked. “This is not our money to spend," said council member Bob Smith. "The taxpayers, you have to tell us how to spend it. One of the biggest problems in our town is the taxes.” In other business The fire department reported 43 pumpouts in September. “I’d like to commend the fire department in doing a fabulous job,” said Mayor Phil Boyce. “You guys were very helpful to the public.” Boyce said the township has received compliments about the fire department and DPW efforts after the storm. Phoebus said St. Paul's Abbey and RPM Development have reached an agreement to work together to create the affordable housing units at the abbey. They will refurbish the existing stone building, and three other buildings on the property for a total of 74 units. “I think it’s wonderful to save this stone building,” council member Gail Phoebus said. Phoebus said a walking trail and a community garden will also be on the site. The location will also probably be a stop for county buses and the bus to New York City. “It’s a real exciting project, you’ll be proud of it when it’s finished,” Phoebus concluded. An unused and expired medicine disposal drive will take place at the Andover Township Police Department on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.