Clarence residents whose Christmases were ruined by severe flooding showed up Thursday in Town Hall, looking for answers before Tonawanda Creek floods the next time.
And the next time could be as soon as this weekend.
Erie County Legislator Edward A. Rath III, R-Williamsville, and Clarence Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr. organized Thursday’s forum to discuss the flooding problems in northern Clarence and the need to reconstruct Goodrich Road, a related issue.
The forum was attended by more than 100 people, who gave their elected officials an earful.
“Honestly, what I’m learning today is it doesn’t sound like you have a solution,” said Diane Patcyk, whose farm on Wolcott Road was among the properties hit hard by flooding during the week of Christmas. “I’m not even positive we can stay in Clarence while we know there’s no solution.”
Flooding has been an issue in the northern part of Clarence along Tonawanda Creek for generations, but last month’s storm that created heavy rain and melting snow caused the worst flooding many Clarence residents had seen in years.
It flooded basements, closed roads and stranded motorists.
“Is there a way we can approach the federal government and get some long-term fix to this problem?” asked one Clarence woman, who declined to give her name. “I feel like the town should be a little more proactive.”
Many of the residents complained that Clarence wasn’t doing a good enough job clearing town ditches to help move the water through more quickly.
Highway Superintendent James Dussing took exception to that and said his crews have worked hard at digging out ditches, particularly in the northern part of Clarence.
“With all due respect, there’s not enough emphasis put on it,” said Greg Spoth, who owns a farm on Lapp Road.
And as Clarence becomes more developed, the flooding problem seems to get worse, Spoth said.
“Maybe we have to bring some outside people in to help the Highway Department do this ditching,” said Hans Mobius, who has a horse farm on Salt Road.
Residents also said they would like more communication from the town the next time there is flooding, so they know where the trouble spots are and what roads to avoid.
Officials – from the town, county and state – said it was a productive meeting.
“One thing I learned is that the town needs to put more resources into ditching the northern end of town, one way or another,” Hartzell said
“What we need to do now as public officials is take action,” Rath said. “Residents pay a lot of money in property taxes and they expect services from the government.”
A flood watch is in effect for area creeks for this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Ice jams could cause problems on local creeks – particularly Cazenovia, Buffalo and Cayuga creeks, the Weather Service said.
Meanwhile, some of the problem in Clarence may be mitigated with the reconstruction of Goodrich Road.
The design work for the project has begun, and officials are hopeful that construction between Lapp and Tonawanda Creek will begin this year.