BLOOMSBURG — Federal officials announced Wednesday that $15 million in federal money will be used to build flood protection in Columbia County. But the flood protection is for two businesses, not for any residential areas.
Employees at Autoneum, which is a factory in Bloomsburg, know what it is like to be out of work because of flooding. After the flood of 2011 there was more than five feet of water inside the business that makes carpeting for automobiles.
“You’re walking through 18 inches of mud, and your machinery that you’re working on everyday is just completely covered in mud,” employee Donna Artley said.
Congressman Lou Barletta and Matt Erskine of the US Commerce Department came to Bloomsburg to announces $15 million in federal grant money. The money will be used to build concrete flood walls around Autoneum and another factory that flooded in 2011, Windsor Foods. Officials say some jobs will be protected.
“By doing that it’s going to keep these businesses and jobs right here in Columbia County,” Representative Lou Barletta said.
“Job security for everyone who works here and people who will come here in the future,” employee John Fenstermacher said.
While the flood protection systems are great for the workers, not everyone in Bloomsburg is happy about it.
“It’s not saving our homes. Yeah, it’s saving jobs, but it’s doing nothing for us,” Renee Lawton said.
Renee Lawton lives on West Third street in Bloomsburg. More than a year after the flood of 2011, she’s still making repairs to her house.
“It’s home. It’s a great street and a great neighborhood. We need protection as well as everyone else,” Lawton said.
Her neighbor down the street agrees.
“It’s a good thing for many, but for me? It won’t help me at all,” William May said.
Work to build flood walls around those two businesses in Bloomsburg is scheduled to start in two years, and should take about three years to complete.