Rye City Council met this Wednesday, September 5th to discuss various items on their agenda including a preliminary report from the Sells engineering firm on the April 15th flood and a possible bond referendum to cover Rye’s share of unfunded flood mitigation costs (efforts not covered by FEMA, the New York State or Westchester County).
- The Sells report is only partially complete. A complete report will be presented at the October 17th council meeting;
- Specific mitigation recommendations and related costs will not be available from Sells until October 17th;
- Sells has completed the hydraulic part of their study and reported that flooding is up 20-30% over the last 20 years due to increased development and increased sediment behind Bowman dam;
- The City Council voted against a $2 million bond referendum (4-2 with 3 abstentions) to pay for Rye’s cost of the flood mitigation. Council members are supportive of this process, but want more facts and figures before putting such a referendum before voters.
The Rye Flood Action Committee provided the following detailed notes and plans from RFAC members Paul Murphy and Holly Kennedy to MyRye.com after the council meeting:
"Once again the turnout was very light. Perhaps only 20 people in attendance. The Sells report was incomplete and will not have all the details until Oct. 17th. The Sell’s report is a detailed engineering study that will determine the flood mitigation projects that are available and apply a dollar total to how much water each project will retain.
I think any bond vote needs all the facts and figures within adequate time to sell it before any vote should be taken. We all want to get the flood issue fixed ASAP but I doubt more than one quarter of Rye has even heard of the Sells report. I know it was a school night but with only 20 people in attendance I do not think a vote rushed in on 11/6/07 has any chance of passing. When we get all the facts and figures and have time to educate and sell the findings only then should a vote on a bond be taken. A special election on any new bond can be takes 60 days which I know is a long time to all of us but in city government terms goes by very quickly. This also weeds out the casual voter who does not know the facts, does not care and only shows up at the general election.
Right now the estimates by the Sells engineers are so vague it is hard to guess how much money is needed to fix the each problem. An example of this is the cost of dredging. The cost per cubic yard of dredging is between $40 and $250. Depending on where the dredging is done and how you dispose of the waste. This potentially is millions of dollars alone and can not be capitalized. Raising the height of the damn, flood gates at the damn, expanding retention upstream etc….were all vaguely discussed but the Sells report was not complete to put a dollar total to projects and prioritize them.
The general election is 11/6/07. The City Council wanted to put on the ballot a vote for a bond to pay for Rye’s cost of the Flood mitigation of up to $2 million. Five votes were needed to pass this resolution. It lost 4-2 with 3 abstains. The issue was not with the need for Rye to contribute but timing and the lack of support that the bond might get if it is rushed to market with out the proper education of the general public. Just my opinion but you do not get a second chance to make a first impression, much better to wait and do this once right.
The detailed finished (we hope) Sells engineering report is due mid October. They promised us this last night but needed more time. Then with the facts and figures I think we will be able to get a bond passed. This will not be easy as most people do not relate unless they were personally flooded. When they see what is needed, what it will cost, how much the federal government and county will contribute, how much benefit the whole town will receive and how little the tax payers will pay as a percentage of the total cost only then will any bond be passed.
I am very much in favor of the bond but want this passed on this first vote and believe this needs more time to be done correctly.
"Thank you Paul for this overview of the City Council Meeting on September 5th, 2007.
And thank you also to Bob Gay, Sean Traynor and Bernie Altoff for also attending on a back to school night. I also attended and would like to add the following:
Quick summary of engineering report:
One day after the April 15th flood City Council retained an engineering firm (Sells) to review the Bowman Avenue watershed, and make a recommendation for ways to improve the Rye owned Bowman Avenue Dam to improve its flood mitigation protection. (In other words, dredge the 40 years of accumulated silt, make the dam itself higher and create a better floodgate for water flow.)
Last night at the City Council meeting, after 4 months of work, the Sells Engineering Firm provided only a hydraulic report, not a recommendation of how to mitigate flooding. They reported that flooding is up 20-30% over the last 20 years, due to increased development, and build-up of sediment behind the dam, not weather incidents.
We had also expected a recommendation with specific flood mitigation projects with costs and cost/ benefit analysis. This is now scheduled to be presented on OCTOBER 17th ([please mark your calendars).
The plan of the City is to take the Sells Engineering recommendation scheduled for October 17th, vet their recommendations, and then submit the recommendations to the NEW YORK STATE FEMA/Sema process for their review and approval. The state has a $50 million pot of flood mitigation project money, and Rye is trying to have this Bowman Ave project funded with this money. (if I have some of the specifics a little wrong, sorry–I think these are the agency names and amount of funding available)
The BEST CASE SCENERIO timing therefore is:
-Sells presents recommendation Oct 17 to City Council with price tags
-City Council vets Sells recommendation between Oct 17-Nov 1
-City Manager/Council submits vetted Sells recommendation Nov 1 to NY STATE for partial funding (Rye will have to fund a minimum of 25% of any project costs, most likely with a bond, assuming the state agrees to fund 75%.
-6-8 weeks later (eg late Dec or mid Jan) Rye hears back from the State whether or not Rye’s flood mitigation projects get a green light.
-If a GO, then City Council needs to pass a referendum for a BOND. Then a minimum of 60 days later a BOND REFERENDUM can go to Rye voters for approval. Therefore realistically we are looking at Spring before a Bond referendum is presented to the community for approval, assuming the state approves Rye’s projects.
Two alternative scenarios:
Rye’s projects do not get funding from the state pot of $50 million.
Rye’s projects get some money, but not 75% funding from the state.
In both scenarios, the clock slows down, Rye searches for alternative funding, and the local price tag gets higher.
What does this all mean?
While we certainly support Rye’s effort to have costs offset by other sources of funding, we cannot wait 3 years for the state/federal funding process to unfold, putting our high school, library, YMCA, downtown shopping district, train station parking and many roads and bridges and low lying residential neighborhoods at risk. Rye will eventually have to face local funding responsibility for protecting the safety and assets of its citizens and community.
We encourage you to attend the City Council meetings over the next few months.
While this may seem tedious and boring and certainly time-consuming, it affects the personal health /safety and economic well being of our friends, neighbors and overall community.
City Council is diligently pursuing all these issues, and they need to know we support their efforts, by showing up and supporting their deliberations and decisions.
Thank you very much