City Notes: Whitehall flood victims have several options for relief

KIM MAGGARD
Kim Maggard

Whitehall has been forced to cut a number of city programs and projects due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

However, I am pleased to share that last month, the city launched its newest homeowner grant program, dubbed Project Prevent Backflow.

In response to the record-breaking flooding events in March and May, the likes of which haven't been seen in decades, the city committed $200,000 to help homeowners install backwater valves. When they are installed, these devices help prevent the backflow of sewer water from the overall sewage system into basements, and they are especially useful when the sewage system is overloaded.

More than 50 Project Prevent Backflow applications had been received as of early August.

I want to thank all who applied. We look forward to announcing grant awardees in the coming weeks and working with certified plumbers to get the valves installed in the next few months.

Although Whitehall leaders are excited to offer Project Prevent Backflow, this program is just one component of the city's multifaceted response to the flooding experienced last spring.

The city also is targeting the inflow and infiltration of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system through a 15-year, EPA-approved $3.5 million stormwater-mitigation program.

Aided by a five-year professional study, the program includes items such as sanitary sewer lining and manhole-cover repairs; in fact, the work already was underway prior to the flooding.

As part of this effort, last year alone, the service department completed more than 2,600 manhole inspections, and this year, the city will inspect and clean approximately 5% of the overall sanitary-sewer system.

As the stormwater-mitigation program is underway, the city also is collecting data from residents who experienced flooding in March and May to use in future stormwater studies.

Even if you didn't apply to Project Prevent Backflow, I ask that you take time to report your flooding at whitehall-oh.us.

Finally, for anyone looking for financial relief for damages incurred from the floods, I encourage you to learn more about disaster-relief loans being offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The administration has declared the March and May storms as natural disasters, which means homeowners, renters and businesses in Whitehall now may apply for low-interest loans to reimburse themselves for property damages and home improvements to help prevent future flooding.

The deadline to apply for loans for physical property damage for the March event has passed, but the economic-injury deadline is Feb. 22, 2021.

For those who incurred physical property damage from the May flood, applications will be accepted through Sept. 18.

You can learn more about the program at whitehall-oh.us or by calling the Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center at 517-422-1925.

As we recover from the spring floods and work to mitigate stormwater issues in the future, stay tuned to learn about other city programs and infrastructure-improvement projects.

Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.