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The Athens borough council Monday agreed to submit a letter of intent to have the Chemung River levee certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but borough officials said they are unlikely to take action on the certification.
The expense of having the levee certified would outweigh the benefits of the certification at this time, borough manager Mark Burgess told the council Monday. It would cost the borough a minimum of $300,000 for the certification process, which Burgess said includes core samples, an engineering study and a complete evaluation of the levee.
The certification process, which Burgess said takes two years, would become even more expensive if any repairs or upgrades needed to be performed. "You can end up incurring a lot of costs," he said.
Burgess said that no action would be taken beyond the letter of intent unless funding for the certification is received.
The certification would help to offset the cost of flood insurance, he said, but since Athens has a unique situation with the Susquehanna River on the other side, the effects could be negated.
There is no penalty for submitting the letter of intent and then not taking advantage of the program, Burgess said. The borough will still be eligible for grants from the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection as long as the levee continues to pass its annual inspections.
Repairs to a damaged 400-foot section of the Chemung River levee will begin in the next couple of weeks, Burgess said. The Army Corps of Engineers will cover 80 percent of the repair's estimated $2.2 million cost, with the remaining 20 percent covered by a grant the borough received through the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which keeps contractors on retainer and bids its projects out to those selected companies, awarded the bid for the project to a company from the southern part of the country, Burgess said.
Resident Dale Bowen asked why the Army Corps could not bid the project locally, concerned that the use of an out-of-town contractor would cause project delays.
"There are local contractors here that could have used the work," he said.
Councilman Scott Riley, co-chair of the Rebuild Athens steering committee, reported that the recovery committee's plans to form a 501(c)3 non-profit organization have progressed. The group has applied for its corporation status and is finalizing the organization's bylaws and procedures, Riley said.
The committee has also started to look at grants and funding sources for the projects outlined in its long-term recovery plan, Riley said.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: email@example.com.