Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Residents Getting out of Flood Zone - for Good

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Residents Getting out of Flood Zone - for Good

Article excerpt

SHICKSHINNY, Pa. - Donald Hargraves is flooded with nostalgia when he drives past the Shickshinny home he owned for more than five decades but doesn't regret recently selling the property in a flood-buyout program.

"I loved my home. If I was younger I'd still be there, but it's over. There's no sense in staying," said Mr. Hargraves, who turns 87 next month.

He didn't think twice about remodeling his double-block in 1972, when the Susquehanna River floodwater rose 7 feet on his first floor. But when the water again lapped at his first floor ceiling during the record flood of September 2011, Mr. Hargraves accepted the help of volunteers to gut the remains and called it quits. He moved in with his son on higher ground in the Shickshinny area.

At least 19 Shickshinny properties have been sold to the borough as part of buyouts since September, according to deeds recorded with the county. The properties are among roughly 100 throughout the county expected to be wrapped up by the year's end, officials say. Municipalities must agree to own and maintain buyout properties and keep them undeveloped.

Shickshinny Mayor Beverly Moore said most of the buyout property owners have left the borough, and she misses regular interaction with familiar neighbors, including Mr. Hargraves. The properties should be demolished in the near future, she said.

"We will have empty lots taking away from the tax base and community itself, so we really need to be creative and hopefully come together in a plan for the borough to become more of a riverfront attraction," said Ms. Moore, who moved to the borough in 1992 and has been mayor since 1997.

Ms. Moore said several property owners declined buyout offers, usually because the amount offered would not cover outstanding mortgages. Property owners are offered appraised value in buyouts. …

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