CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Cheektowaga's town board has approved spending $15.5 million from the American Rescue Plan, much of which would tackle flooding issues.
Among the infrastructure projects are $7.5 million towards sanitary sewer work and $1.25 million for sanitary sewer system upgrades. Certain streets and neighborhoods would also get sewer and storm drain upgrades, including North Transithill, the Woods neighborhood, Wallace Avenue, Lemoine Avenue, Mildred Drive and Andres Place.
The town board voted during a work session on Tuesday night.
In 2021, major rain events wreaked havoc on residents and business owners in parts of Cheektowaga. Businesses along Harlem Road were among those hit hard, with several inches of rain flooding their parking lots and buildings.
Owners of New Buffalo Shirt Factory tell 7 News they lost more than $100,000 from lost productivity and merchandise because of the multiple flooding events. The business is located on Harlem Road near Gruner Road. It's one of the several businesses along Harlem Road that 7 News profiled last October. In the days that followed the broadcast of that story, New Buffalo Shirt Factory owner Jon Weiss says Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski and a town engineer paid their property a visit. But since then — he's heard crickets.
"We haven’t gotten any further," said Weiss. "And if there is a plan, it would be great to communicate it. If there’s nothing they can do about it, it would be great to communicate that also.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Department of Transportation told 7 News "a project to increase the hydraulic capacity of the drainage system is currently in the planning stages" for Harlem Road, which is run by the DOT.
Meantime, Benczkowski says she hopes that some of the sewer and storm drain replacements on ancillary streets near Harlem Road will offset some of the flooding issues. Lemoine Avenue and Wallace Avenue are slated to receive a $2.6 million road reconstruction.
“These will be long term effects. When you start digging that’s where you will see long term effects," said Benczkowski.
Benczkowski explains the flooding issues by pointing to two major contributing factors: aging infrastructure and urbanization of Cheektowaga.
"So what’s happening is our sanitary sewers are getting infiltrated with storm water during these heavy rain events. And if they’re not sealed off, all that storm water’s going into the sanitary," said Benczkowski.
In addition, she says there is less green space to absorb water from major rain events because of the business development in the town.
Weiss says he understands the circumstances and is willing to pay to make upgrades on his property if he knows it's his responsibility. But he wishes the town and state would communicate their plans with him so that he doesn't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in water mitigation efforts if he doesn't have to. He says he has already spent $10,000 to redirect water off his property, and is budgeting another $50,000 this year.
"If [the road reconstruction] creates a solution then why would I spend the $50,000? Again, we go back to no communication," said Weiss.