FORTY FORT — Luzerne County Council members said they were impressed with the county flood protection authority’s headquarters and command center during a tour on Tuesday.
They described the facility, off Wyoming Avenue near Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort, as a good use of a portion of the county’s share of American Rescue Plan economic stimulus funding.
The authority, which oversees a 16-mile flood control system along the Susquehanna River in a designated floodplain, moved into the building in September 2022, after it authorized its purchase for $565,000 in 2021.
The board also approved a 25-year mortgage agreement — but earlier this year it paid off the mortgage with Rescue Plan funds council approved as part of an allocation of about $8 million the authority will use for flood mitigation projects.
“This turned out to be a very nice purchase,” authority Chairman Dominic Yannuzzi said during the authority board’s monthly meeting Tuesday.
After the meeting ended, seven county council members — John Lombardo, Tim McGinley, Lee Ann McDermott, Brian Thornton, Carl Bienias III, Matt Mitchell and Gregory Wolovich Jr. — took a tour of the authority’s headquarters and the maintenance garage outside.
Lombardo said the Rescue Plan funds were well-spent on the authority’s new home and its planned projects, especially if the allocation will prevent an increase in the levee maintenance fee paid by property owners in the floodplain.
“Anything that will help the ratepayers and taxpayers is useful,” Lombardo said.
McDermott said any potential improvement to the authority’s flood mitigation measures is “a wonderful thing.”
One such measure is a planned storage facility at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre, which the authority is developing in cooperation with city officials, authority Executive Director Christopher Belleman said. That project will be paid for with Rescue Plan funds, he said.
The authority will store flood gates and flood control equipment at the facility, Belleman said. That will allow the equipment to be put in place along the levee system near the Market Street Bridge within minutes, he said.
“This will enhance our flood-fighting capacity,” Belleman said.
Authority board member and Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney said the planned project is an example of “intergovernmental cooperation at its finest.”