Couple receives buyout from Pine Grove Flood
Published: January 17, 2013
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PINE GROVE - Lisa and Derek Tobias were the first homeowners to receive buyouts for their flood-damaged home in Pine Grove on January 11.
The borough was inundated with more than 15 inches of water from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late August and early September 2011. In all, the borough condemned 13 properties. Residents applied for the buyouts in October 2011. One of the properties was sold, leaving 12 properties and 11 owners. Widespread flooding in the borough damaged personal property, businesses and borough-owned properties.
The $674,073.39 for the buyouts was from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Emergency Management Agency.
The Pine Grove Township couple said they feel as if a weight has been lifted from their shoulders and they can move on with their lives as they sat in the borough office on January 11. They moved out of the borough after looking for suitable housing and found a house they wanted in the township. They had stayed with family when their house was damaged.
"It's not about the money. It's about the closure for us. That's what it is. It's closure. And it's sad. You're happy. You're sad but at the end of the day it's the end of a chapter," Lisa Tobias said.
After paying their final quarterly sewer bill and a portion of associated costs with the settlement and other matters, the couple received a check for $30,856.18.
Derek Tobias gave Mayor Kimberly Brown-Zerbe the deed and in return, he was handed the check.
"Congratulations," said attorney David J. Rossi, who is handing the settlement transactions.
Lisa Tobias said she didn't have any specific plans for the money.
Both said they would like to watch the demolition of their former property at 69 E. Pottsville St. That will occur after the last of the 11 owners completes settlement. Money for the demolition will come from FEMA and PEMA, the mayor said.
Brown-Zerbe said contributions are likely to be received for the 3 percent match for the demolition effort. She said the cost for the demolition might be about $300,000.
A 3-percent match from the borough was required for the buyouts, which was about $20,000. That money was received from professional services and donations which will be used for purchasing the homes and demolition costs.
More settlements are possible soon, Rossi said, adding that all settlements should be finished by the end of the month.
Mortgages and any outstanding issues, such as liens, must be resolved before money is given.
Living in the house for nine years, this was not the first flood the Tobiases had experienced.
In 2004, their basement flooded and they also lost a car, and the basement and the first floor sustained damage in 2006.
The 2011 flood brought 33 inches of water into their first floor and the basement was flooded.
A water mark is still visible on the glass door of the home.
The couple, their son, Carter, 11, and the family's German shepherd left before the water started to creep into their home.
Staying with family, Lisa Tobias said she didn't know what she would come back to when she set foot on her front porch. She cried when she did.
"My first thought was, 'Oh, My God, we just cannot fix this again. We can't do this,' " she said.
"I was in shock," Derek Tobias said, adding that personal items were scattered everywhere.
Lisa Tobias said probably the hardest losses to deal with were photos that were not salvageable.
"You'll never get that time and place back," she said.
The couple continued to make payments on the house and carry insurance even though they could not live there, Rossi said.
Friends and others helped them clean up the mess.
Brown-Zerbe said individuals like the couple can now move forward with their lives.
They both said the kindness of strangers and organizations, the borough and various government officials helped them get though the tough times.
Meghan Prock, district director for state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, said the office was happy to provide assistance but that others including borough workers also contributed.