County Falls Short

13932086838 54ebc1baa6 zFORT WASHINGTON — Families displaced after a May landslide on Piscataway Drive have $11 million in county taxpayer money coming their way for assistance, but it is up to the state to provide more funds to help the county afford costly repairs. 

County Council Chairman Mel Franklin said Tuesday the $11 million the county allotted in the budget for fiscal year 2015 is the best the council can do because of budget constraints. 
“While this money is generous and substantial, it is not enough to pay for the county’s engineering consultant’s recommendations for fixing the slope failure,” Franklin said. 
The Council has requested state assistance to match the $11 million Franklin said, but it is unclear if the state will fulfill the request. If the state does not come through with requested funds, he said, then council must scrape up alternative ways to fund the project.
“It’s a challenging situation for us right now,” Franklin said. 
On May 2, about 450 feet of Piscataway Drive fractured after part of a hillside collapsed, damaging water and power lines to residents and closing the road. 
A report from KCI Technologies released in May concluded heavy rains saturated a bed of clay underneath the roadway, weakening the bank and making it susceptible to collapse. 
“The slope failure has directly threatened six homes, disrupted power, water supply, communications and other services to an additional 22 homes along the Piscataway Drive,” according to the report. “It has also jeopardized the use of most of roadway from 13700 Piscataway Drive to the southernmost part of the drive. The affected portion of Piscataway Drive remains closed and the County has determined and declared numerous homes in the vicinity of the slide unfit and/or unsafe for occupancy.”
Twenty-eight families were told to leave after County Executive Rushern Baker III recommended an evacuation. 
Ronald Gill Jr., director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, said many families relied on insurance to find temporary residences, while others had to seek help from the county Department of Social Services. He said residents would be displaced for two weeks or longer after the original incident more than two months ago. 
Some families have returned to their homes despite the reported danger, Franklin said. 
“The county is not going to stop people from returning to their homes,” he said. 
KCI proposed in its report solutions to the collapsing slope by inserting metal and concrete fixtures to stabilize the location, but repairs have not been made.


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