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A ‘capstone project’ to make Muncy a ’spotlight community’

By Staff | Nov 30, 2016

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Josh Schnitzlein, Hazard Mitigation Planner for Lycoming County, points out the flood plain in the Muncy Borough that is part of a planning grant for housing, buyouts and remediation.

MUNCY – A planning event was held in Muncy to make it better, to find ways to bring back its economic status and start to make plans to redevelop the corner of Main and Water Streets which includes the old Opera House.

A community meeting was held on Thursday, November 17 at Myers Elementary School in Muncy with the Lycoming County planning department. Kim Wheeler, Deputy Director introduced presenter Jeff Allen from the Pennsylvania Department of Planning and Community Development.

Working in a partnership with other organizations and state agencies, the goal is to secure state and federal funds for restructuring and preservation. Lycoming County is marked as one of the state’s Keystone Innovation Zones and eligible for funding for land use and conservation planning.

According to Allen money is appropriated but not allocated. Muncy with its aging infrastructure would be a model project for the state and considered a “capstone project.”

“What does resiliency mean?” Allen asked the community members who attended. The dictionary refers to the word as the abillity to spring back into shape, and the ability to recover quickly from difficulty. “Muncy will become a research component,” they said.

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Jeff Allen, Pennsylvania's Disaster Recovery Coordinator, met with the Muncy community on November 17 to discuss the Muncy Resiliency plan and ways to improve its aging infrastructure as well as preserving historical elements that are part of the flood plain.

Planning teams and steering committees have been formed with a focus on plans for development and working on “stressors” such as water pressure, storm water drainage and inland flooding.

The ‘Center of Excellent Resiliency for Muncy’ was created to work with legislature and to develop specific plans for government planners. Allen told the community that if you have a plan, funding will come. The goal is to create a resiliency center of excellence for the commonwealth of PA. Over 30 counties were solicited before narrowing it down to Muncy which was one of four candidates. “Location here is important. It is easy to get to,” Allen said. “I fell in love with your town.”

Much of the academic research and development was done by architectural engineering students at Penn State University who are in their fifth year of study. Agency representatives, professors and students took a tour of downtown Muncy in June 2016. They also met with the Muncy Historical Society to discuss flood mitigation and Muncy’s historical aspects of being built near sources of water. It was suggested that older homes could be more resilient by elevating them and members encouraged them to look at ways to mitigate flood damage to over 40 percent of homes in the Muncy borough.

The Penn State students designed a 3D model using the old Opera House as a venue after coming up with 8 different designs. It is a modern urban design with green space and community gardens.

The objective is to look for ways to bring revenue into Muncy, make housing affordable for young professionals, and meet the demands of the aging population. Buyouts are needed for severe, repetitive losses, and funding for raising basements to meet flooding guidelines.

Wheeler said the process will take about a year. “Hopefully next year we will be sharing these concepts with other municipalities.” The county and the state are working together to redefine Muncy. The process began last March after planners toured the Muncy area to determine its ability to bounce back from natural disasters and aging infrastructure. Planners looked at the Glade Run area, the bridges, utilities and problems with “debris and jam-ups.” Wheeler informed that a ten year update is due for the county’s comprehensive plan and the county will be working strategically with communities for the next 10 to 15 years. Muncy Creek Township will also be included in this.

“The historic elements will be preserved,” said Allen. A comprehensive plan is needed to tackle sidewalks and better water pressure. Allen said. “The reservoir is 135 years old and will need newer pipes for a redundant system. With a weakened storm drain system Allen said he sees a need for improvement in the southern part of Muncy. “We have a problem here that needs addressed. Put in a rain garden. Get a tax credit,” he explained.

Bill Ramsey, Muncy borough manager said flooding is the biggest stressor for Muncy as the town grew from the river back. “Much of the historic district is in the flood plain.” There is a 5.9 million dollar loan from the state to upgrade the water system.

Josh Schnitzlein, Hazard Mitigation Planner for Muncy Borough said that the borough and the county are working together. “2.6 million dollars is ready to go to Muncy,” he said. This will be used for structural mitigations to keep the tax base here plus allocations and buyouts for the spring.”

Jeff Smead, an active community member announced, “This is going to be important for the town.”

Some of the Muncy borough members attended hoping to discuss some of the plans at future borough meetings. Karen Richards asked that residents think about how they want Muncy to look in the future.

Plans are moving forward with a quarter million dollars directed to the planning process. Policy will need to be created by the Commonwealth. Much has been done with coastal towns, but what about the river towns according to Allen.

“The federal and state agencies are very interested in helping out this community and to make it stronger. I think it’s a win-win for you guys – to give Muncy a new life.”