By SHARON SPOHN
Special to Tri County
BIRDSBORO - Sixteen months after a politician presented the borough with a cardboard check for $100,000, officials still haven't seen the money promised to help repair the town's flood-damaged water system.
In October 2004, state Sen. Michael O'Pake, D-11th Dist., presented the borough with a mock-up of a check for $100,000 to repair damage caused by a July 2004 flood.
"Honestly, I think everyone just thought there would be a check for $100,000," Birdsboro Manager Randy Miller said.
Birdsboro Councilman Richard Happel rarely lets a meeting go by without mention of the check and queries on the whereabouts of the promised money.
"It's discouraging. We put this money up front when the bills came in and we had to repair things," Happel said. "We thought the money would be following right behind."
O'Pake, who won re-election to another four-year term in the state Senate in November 2004, didn't follow through with the grant money, forcing borough officials to contact his office.
"If we wouldn't have brought it up, we still wouldn't know what path to take to get it," Happel said.
Happel said Miller has spent many hours preparing the documents needed for the grant and to get reimbursed.
"You try to do what's right and follow all the rules and here we are 18 months later," Happel said. "Every time we turn around, there's a new wrench thrown into our gears."
When Miller called O'Pake's office after the check presentation to inquire about the process to obtain the funds, he was told they would be provided through a grant. The borough applied for a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant in early 2005.
In December 2005, the borough received notification that the grant had been awarded and that the borough could proceed. The grant required the borough to spend its own money on the repairs then apply to the DEP for a reimbursement.
Last week, Miller received a call from the DEP, which said there were "issues" with the grant. The grant time frame was from October 2004 to November 2005. An amendment will be issued to adjust those dates to fit more closely with the date of the flood.
To date, nearly $200,000 has been spent on repairs after two floods - one in July 2004, the second in October 2005. Several hundred feet of water main was moved, stream banks were stabilized and a water valve was replaced.
"There are still things that need to be done," Miller said.
Even with the repairs that were made, the borough may not be ready to sustain a flood like the one in July 2004, when more than six inches of rain fell in several hours.
"You cannot prepare for what Mother Nature can dish out because as soon as you prepare, she's going to prove you wrong," Miller said. "All you can do is be as ready as you can be, and then clean up afterward."
"We will continue to do whatever is necessary to make everything work out," Miller added.