Emerson Borough Council Grapples with Storm Drainage Issues and Future Flood Mitigation

During the recent September 19th meeting of the Emerson Borough Council, storm drainage issues and their long-term impact stood as the focal point of discussion, revealing a community grappling with the urgency to revitalize its existing infrastructure to combat recurrent flooding. The council underscored the need for detailed drainage analyses to understand and address the challenges better, with borough officials and experts contemplating a structured yet pressing pathway to overhaul the existing infrastructure that buckles under heavy rainfalls.

The council discussed the need for an elevator installation in the firehouse, a step aimed at facilitating disabled individuals during polling and aiding elderly fire department members. The potential backing from the Community Development Block Grant program surfaced as a likely financial propellant for the $199,000 project. The engagement further delved into the delineation of future steps, including potential dredging initiatives and cleanup drives to stem the flood woes that the borough has been encountering increasingly.

The council noted the existing infrastructural design, unable to handle heavy rainfalls “1.7 inches in 20 minutes,” calling for a multi-faceted approach involving cooperation with Bergen County, New Jersey Transit, and acquiring permissions from the DEP. This collaborative strategy aims to enhance the capacity of the waterways by cleaning sediment and silt deposits, even though it was acknowledged to be a solution that won’t “solve everything.”

Mayor Danielle DiPaola and Council members including Nicole Argenzia, Brian Gordon, Ashley Rice, and Michael Timmerman showed a consensus on taking tangible steps immediately. An expert highlighted the necessity of a drainage study to assess the “invert elevation” and “pipe sizes,” a step seen as vital to envisaging a robust system capable of thwarting the flooding challenges. However, this endeavor isn’t a budget-friendly solution, estimated at around $225,000, and necessitates a phased approach with a timeline stretching over a year for data collection and analysis.

Despite the extensive timeframe, the council emphasized the essential nature of this study to pinpoint problems and work out solutions, rather than adopting a random approach hoping it fixes the prevailing issues. An air of urgency pervaded the discourse with council members urging immediate actions, highlighting areas near the high school and a cemetery bordering Westwood as priority concerns.

Residents voiced their anguish over water management issues stemming from development projects at Block 419, criticizing the absence of a stormwater retaining system, a lapse perceived as a violation of borough and state ordinances. The community urged the council to hold the developer accountable and ensure compliance with relevant ordinances for sustainable development.

In a session discussing the borough’s finances, auditor Gary Higgins lauded the borough for maintaining a healthy surplus and a high tax collection rate, praising the judicious utilization of coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds. The council envisioned continued progress with infrastructure projects such as the Sydney Lane pump station and road work on Grand Boulevard and Park Avenue, even as it adopted a pragmatic approach to stay within budgetary constraints, optimizing costs without compromising on essential utility upgrades.

The discourse veered towards community wellbeing, noting an uptick in COVID cases, albeit not in severity, and the Board of Health’s ongoing efforts. The council also acknowledged efforts of active community members like Perry for his help during recent storms, highlighting the integral role of the community in working through the pressing times.

The council also commemorated Detective Brendan Rizzo’s promotion to Sergeant, alongside other promotions, and Council President Michael Timmerman and community member Michelle were praised for their efforts in securing an AED device for Hillman Field in collaboration with Holy Name Hospital. The month of September was acknowledged for Hunger Action and awareness for Ovarian and Childhood Cancer.

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