FEMA park anniversary raises new questions
BY MATT VINE
Wyoming County Press Examiner
One year ago the Federal Emergency Management Agency worked feverishly to create a subdivision to provide 52 temporary homes for persons displaced by the flooding of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
On the one-year anniversary of the FEMA trailer park sited above Highfields subdivision in Tunkhannock Township, fewer than a dozen are occupied today.
That would seem like a success story until a closer examination reveals that during the course of the past year, 19 trailers were never occupied.
“That’s just not right, but I believe it’s true,” Tunkhannock Township supervisor Glenn Ace Shupp said last week.
Anthony Talerico, who leased space to the federal government that he was hoping to one day create a neighborhood of townhouses, and still has those aspirations once the FEMA Park is gone, said “It was a rushed thing in which FEMA planned for a worst case scenario.”
Asked about the fiscal responsibility of creating nearly 20 homes with federal money that lay vacant for a year, Congressman Tom Marino’s office – through Chief of Staff Bill Tighe – merely noted Friday, “We’re still working on the issue.”
Eugene J. Dziak, Wyoming County’s Emergency Management Agency director said that he did the best he could to address the county’s needs.
“We did what we had to do to help the families out,” Dziak said.
“The families that lived in the trailers felt satisfied for a while until they were ready to move back into their homes,” Talerico said. “However, some are still residing in the trailers today.”
“FEMA checks to see if any families are making progress with returning to their normal lives,” Talerico said. “However, we are finding out that some of the families do not want to leave. The government is trying to give these families a hand-up but not a hand-out.”
“There are about 11 families left at the park,” Talerico said.
One of those who moved into a new temporary home just prior to Christmas 2011, Shirley and Francis Porasky of Falls, are now back in their “real home” today and happy to be there.
Shirley Porasky said Thursday that the transition to and from the trailer was not difficult.
“We had no complaints with the trailer itself,” Porasky said. “The trailer was clean and maintenance workers kept the trailers in good condition.”
Edward Mizenko, of Eaton Township, was one of the first to move in a trailer after the park was opened, and glad not to have to rely on friends for temporary housing.
He is still in a trailer.
“Our original home is 75 percent completed,” Mizenko said. “We hopefully will be able to move back in another month or two. We are waiting for the contractors.”
Jeanette Line, of Falls, has been in the FEMA park since April 13 of this year.
She was living with other family members in Harveys Lake and needing to rent because of flood damage to her own home.
She said she expects to be at the park until the contractor finishes fixing her house.
It took four and a half feet of water and two inches of mud following the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, she said.
Line noted a new garage had been completed recently and hopes to be home before too long.
She said that while she appreciates the housing, “the trailer is not my home. I want to be there as quickly as possible.”
Wyoming County Planning Commission member Rich Fitzsimmons raised the spectre of the FEMA trailer park being there more than the allowed 18 months.
“We need to make sure we get these people back into more permanent housing,” he said.