Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flood zones among concerns residents air at Town Hall

Emerson Community School's cafetorium was the site of City Council's first Town Hall meeting in a series of four set over the next few weeks.

The point of the meetings is to get participants' views on their concerns and what the Council can do to address them. Council President McWilliams conducted last night's in an informal manner which invited good back-and-forth between both the audience and the Council and among audience members.

Topics of perpetual concern came up -- teens hanging out late at night, drug activity,
taxes, speeding, street plowing, pothole filling, taxes, police presence (or lack of it), the PMUA, taxes, break-ins (including an attempt at Freeholder Carter's home), and more. (You can read Tony Rucker's account of the meeting here. He and I were the only bloggers there.) Did I forget to mention taxes?

Prospect Avenue resident Tom Kaercher kicked off a lively discussion about the PMUA, and suggested a local attorney who had experience in shutting down two local utilities authorities, saying it was not as difficult to do as folks make it out to be. This is likely to continue to be a lively topic.

Among the issues unique to First Ward residents is the matter of FLOOD INSURANCE, which also generated a lively discussion.

The vast majority of residential property owners who must have flood insurance are in the First Ward, with many fewer in Ward 2, a sprinkling in Ward 3 and practically none in Ward 4, where the Green Brook tends to flood the North Plainfield side of the brook (with the exception of Green Brook Park).

Councilor Storch held out the prospect that some of those with flood insurance -- where annual policies range from $2,000 upwards -- could get rebates when the City finishes submitting its revised plan to FEMA.

It became clear from the comments of several in the audience that it would be useful for the Council to provide a variety of handouts at these meetings: meeting schedules (Council, Board of Ed, PMUA) and contact information (phones, emails, websites, addresses) for the various bodies. It was pointed out that some do not have access to computers, and the handouts would be convenient.

There was also some back-and-forth over what number should be used to report incidents to the police. Councilor Williams reported that attendees at a recent block association meeting were told to use 9-1-1 to report all problems; Freeholder Carter and others advised folks had been told before to use the non-emergency number (753-3131) to report incidents that were not emergencies.

Sounds like something that should get public clarification, especially if the message is being changed or is unclear.

Mayor Robinson-Briggs' confidential aide, Barbara James, answered several questions addressed to the Administration, and advised that the Mayor had a schedule conflict and was at a meeting at Hubbard School.

It would be nice to have Public Works and Public Safety leaders at these meetings, as many of the questions are addressed to them, but this is in the Mayor's bailiwick to designate attendance.

The next Town Hall is at Cook School on Wednesday, April 6. See full information below.

Council Town Hall Meetings:  Ward 2
Wedesday · April 6
· 7:00 PM

Cook School
Leland Avenue at Berkeley Avenue
Parking on the street, with very limited parking in in the school lot.
Council Town Hall Meetings:  Ward 3
Wedesday · April 20 · 7:00 PM

Cedarbrook School
Central Avenue
Parking in the school lot and on the street.
Council Town Hall Meetings:  Ward 4
Wedesday · May 11 · 7:00 PM

Clinton School
West 4th Street at Clinton Avenue
Parking in the school lot and on the street.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

Can we get a Ward map of Plainfield. I've searched the City site and find nothing. Some people don't know which Ward they are in.

Dan said...

Bob -- The city doesn't have the ward maps online, tho I have spoken with several people about it more than once.

I do have scans of the four ward maps online at this address:

See the links to each ward map at the end of the post. Hopefully things will improve once the new maps are drawn.

Dan said...

Addendum, Bob: Once you get the page with the map you want, click on the image to force it to load in a page by itself. You can then print it out, sized to fit an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet.

Anonymous said...


The matter of flood insurance was a real eye-opener. Flood insurance is not only an annual expense that siphons millions of dollars per year out of household budgets- just think of how improved homes would be if owners spent $2000 per year on maintenance instead of flood insurance- but that expense is "capitalized" into the sale price of homes, i.e., a house would sell for $20,000- 30,000 less than a comparable house that is not required to have flood insurance by a mortgage company. Eliminating the need for flood insurance in the First Ward would increase house values by the tens of millions of dollars for the impacted houses.

Unfortunately, flood maps are based on the high water mark over the preceding 100 years. It is good to know that some reduction in rates will result from abatement, as Councilman Storch pointed out, but I think the rules themselves need to be revised to account for abatement. If, from engineering studies, current abatement would have lowered the highwater mark from a previous flood, then that theoretical flood level should be used to redraw the flood maps.

Revising the rules requires federal action, and that means the involvement of our Senators and local Congressmen. Indeed, they are the ones who appropriate the money for abatement; I would like to think they would want to see their constituents benefit from the work to reduce flood levels instead of the insurance companies. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars on flood abatement, homeowners should not be held hostage to flooding events from the past that have been engineered to not reoccur.

Should a city council- all the city councils along the Greenbrook-all the city councils across the ocuntry where flood abatement has occurred- push for change through their political connections and lobbying organizations, or is this something an advocacy group like NJPIRG could help us with?

YBA Plainfield said...

you can also find a really great street ward map here on googlemaps under Plainfield NJ - Subdivisiónes Electoral / Wards Below is the link: