Centre County municipalities seek federal aid after June storms

Six Centre County municipalities are looking to join with others around the state to ask for a presidential disaster declaration after last month’s storms.

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Centre County met with the affected municipalities Wednesday for a joint preliminary damage assessment, county Emergency Management Director Randy Rockey said. Municipal officials were from Bellefonte, State College and Howard boroughs and Liberty, Gregg and Howard townships.

“It’s a waiting game at this point,” Rockey said. “Hopefully we will end up getting that presidential declaration.”

For the state to apply for the federal aid, it must hit a threshold of $17.3 million in damages, Rockey said. Right now, it is about $2 million shy.

Rockey said Centre County damages totaled about $1.8 million from the June 27 storm, with most of the municipalities’ damage coming to streets. There was private property damage as well, Rockey said, but it doesn’t appear to be enough to warrant another declaration.

About $300,000 in damages occurred on West Lamb Street in Bellefonte, borough Manager Ralph Stewart said. Rushing water caused the storm drainage to collapse beneath the road in sections, and a new storm drain must be installed.

“Basically we think the street needs (to be) rebuilt,” he said.

The street remains open despite the blacktop being rippled in sections, Stewart said.

State College saw about $23,000 in damages, but that number could increase with additional assessments, borough Manager Tom Fountaine said.

About $15,000 in damages occurred on Calder Way, and there was an additional $8,000 in equipment damages at a service building off Corl Street. Fountaine said the Corl Street area is prone to flooding, but the borough didn’t have time to move the equipment because the storm moved in so quickly.

If the state reaches the threshold, FEMA and PEMA will assess the damage, and the affected municipalities could be reimbursed for the damages with federal money, Rockey said.

Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday that low-interest loans will be offered in 17 counties to homeowners and small business owners through the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program.

Three counties — Clearfield, Jefferson and Fayette — were declared disaster areas after the floods, and the bordering counties, including Centre, also are eligible for relief.

People will be able to borrow up to $200,000 to repair private real estate, up to $40,000 for lost personal property and businesses, and businesses can borrow up to $2 million for repairs.