A few dozen angry residents filled the council chamber Wednesday night to address their concerns regarding the township’s response to the ongoing flooding crisis.
Several residents said that officials let them down due to the fact that the township provided no temporary shelter for them while flooding occurred last week and continues to affect low-lying residents this week.
“We’re all very upset,” one resident passionately said. “It’s just very sad. Where do we go? What is Wayne doing for me? I have no water, no gas. I can’t go to another town for shelter. We have plenty of locations where we can have a shelter.”
Pat Menzo, a resident of Cedarcliffe Drive, said “you don’t need trained personnel to put a roof over someone’s head.”
Mayor Christopher Vergano said that because their resources were stretched so thin, the American Red Cross was only able to provide temporary regional shelters in Paramus, Sparta, and Morristown. Many residents said that they could not get to the shelters because of floodwaters.
“We were not in a position to provide a temporary shelter,” Vergano said.
Vergano said the town would revise its emergency action plan to provide a temporary shelter during future flood events.
Vergano offered flood victims who need a place to stay the use of the council chamber Wednesday night.
More than one resident stated that officials must keep partisan politics out of relief efforts.
“I understand there were mistakes that were made. Now we have to go ahead and move forward,” Rex Miatke said. “It can’t be divisive. We have to come together as a group.”
Members of the council praised the efforts of residents on Ryerson Avenue, one of the hardest-hit flooded areas, who assisted each other throughout this week and last week by helping them clean out their homes and serving them food.
“We all have to do our part,” Councilwoman Nadine Bello said. “These are the times where we see what kind of community we are.”
Possible solutions have been discussed by state and federal officials recently due to the severity of the flooding and the growing frequency by which it has occurred in the Passaic River basin.
The State Department of Environmental Protection authorized communities in the Passaic River Basin to remove debris from rivers to alleviate flooding after Hurricane Irene.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed a measure Tuesday giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authority to spend $5 million on home buyouts in the basin. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.
Councilwoman Lonni Miller Ryan said the problem is bigger than Wayne and that those possible solutions won't solve the problem.
“You can’t fix it with buyouts,” Ryan said, noting that, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, $2 billion has been spent on flood relief in the basin since 2007.
“If we had spent $2 billion fixing the problem residents wouldn’t be flooded today, ” Ryan said. “Do you know what that $2 billion is? It’s piles of garbage in front of residents’ houses.”