This letter is addressed to Muncy residents and business owners. I hesitated to write this letter because efforts to address flood zone issues before were not that successful; few wanted to hear it, many thought it was not their problem or concern. However, after hearing of a project that would bring flood mitigation resources to the borough of Muncy, which has forty percent of it's homes in flood zones, I could not remain silent. The Muncy Borough Council has an opportunity to acquire the former Muncy Opera House. It would then be rehabbed into a flood resiliency center that the state of PA wants to establish in Muncy. For the first time, the state of PA has eyes on the borough of Muncy for something positive. This center would provide educational resources for municipal, state, and possibly national officals to learn and discuss hazard mitigation methods. Working with a representative of the PA Dept of Community and Economic Development, a $250,000 grant has been secured to develop an action plan for the center. This action plan would establish a foundation which would then take ownership and management of the mitigation center. The center would then approach state, federal and private partners for funding to turn Muncy into a model community showcasing mitigation methods. These are organizations with big money to put into the project.
Penn State architectural students are working on a design for the building. The Rural Law Institute, also at Penn State, is working on the legal structure of the above mentioned foundation. The building would serve as a place where, in working with the State of Pennsylvania, education, discussion and development of flood mitigation methods would take place and money would be poured into the borough, assisting those in harm's way to mitigate their homes.
Why is this important or why should it be important to anyone not in the flood zones? For the same reason I expounded on in previous letters, meetings, etc. The flood insurance debacle is not solved; the Homeowner's Flood Insurance Affordability Act, passed by the same inept congress that passed the original disaster,i.e. Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, simply slows the increase of the cost of flood insurance down. Those rates for homeowners, and businesses, will still rise to $10,000, $11,000 or more a year. At this time in Muncy, if you drive down N. Market St. in Muncy, you can see 3-4 homes that have been abandoned due to this criminal act. The homeowners calculated they could not afford the cost and simply walked away. More of this is sure to come. Shrinking tax base, increasing individual property owner's taxes, loss of quality of life, etc will result.
Presently the plan to purchase the Muncy Opera House and convert it to a Flood Mitigation Center, is meeting resistance from certain borough council people. Why? I would like to hear their reasons. Is it because most of them live in the south end of the borough, where the flood zones do not exist and they feel it is not their problem? Is it because they do not want to be bothered, simply feeling complacent to sit, keep street lights on, streets plowed, basic maintenance performed and nothing else? I cannot think of any other reasons. The building is being donated, the initial money to get a start on this project is there, secured, waiting. This is a way to not only help borough property owners in the flood zones up out of the muck, mess and danger, it is also a way to provide leadership based in our town, for the entire state of Pennsylvania on hazard mitigation and resiliency.
One council person was asked if she was content to simply sit by, allow homeowners to lose their homes, due to an inability to pay their flood insurance, resulting in a loss of a lifetime of payments, equity, sweat and ability to pass something onto their children; her answer was that she could live with that. I urge Muncy residents to show up at the next borough council meeting, make yourself heard. This may be the best opportunity to do something significant for this town which at present has forty percent of it's homes in flood zones. Do something now or pay a steep price down the road. Stand up, speak up, and help your neighbors, your town, your greater community.
Jeff Smead, Muncy, PA 17756
Note: The Muncy Opera House address is: 7 East Water St., Muncy.