Council looks to use eminent domain to resolve flooding problems: Somerset PA Daily American, 8/8/07

By Jennifer Garlesky

Rockwood Borough [PA] Council members explained why they want to take a borough man's home through eminent domain at a court hearing Tuesday afternoon.

A culvert along Somerset Avenue has flooded Jack Benford's home several times since 1996. As a result, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board ordered the borough to replace the 48-inch culvert that bisects Benford's property line.
Based on a report by The EADS Group of Somerset, council members came to the decision to purchase the property.

The two most cost-effective options are flood proofing or purchasing the property, Scott Rugh, borough engineer, told Judge David Klementik.

“Based upon the report the borough did pick the most cost-effective way,” he said.

According to testimony, the engineering report said council has five alternatives to fix the problem: replacing the culvert with a larger culvert; building an off-site retention pond; building an on-site retention pond; flood proofing Benford's home and building an 60-foot earthen embankment; and purchasing the property.

Flood proofing Benford's home would cost the borough about $60,000. If they choose to purchase the property, it would cost approximately $85,000. The cost estimates are based upon the EADS report, which was released in 2005.

Flood proofing Benford's property may be the most cost-effective way but it would limit access to his property, Rugh said. Plans calls for the closing of all windows and doors in his basement and the removal of the berm in front of his driveway, leaving him with little or no accessibility to his driveway and garage, he explained.

“We looked at it financially and the cheapest way was to take Mr. Benford's property,” councilman Todd Berkey said.

If council does not receive permission to take the property, they would have to develop a flood control or storm water management plan.

Until a decision is made on eminent domain, it is not economically feasible for the borough to invest in future planning for the property, Berkey said.

Benford has made an effort to settle with council by offering a purchase price for his home. However, council members could not agree on the amount proposed, council President Don Warrick said.

Benford was present at the hearing but did not testify. Klementik took the case under advisement.

Somerset PA Daily American: http://www.dailyamerican.com