Replacement of underground conduit of Meadow Brook in Scranton affects four dozen properties

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May 26—SCRANTON — In a step toward replacing an old, underground culvert channeling Meadow Brook through about four dozen properties in Green Ridge, the city first must obtain access easements from the owners and appraisals of the parcels.

The administration of Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti recently issued public notices in The Times-Tribune requesting firms to submit proposals for legal and appraisal services for the stormwater flood-control project.

The underground conduit was first designed and constructed in 1955 to carry Meadow Brook, which runs intermittently through some residential areas of the neighborhood, according to the city's request for proposals. The purpose of the RFP is twofold:

Legal services: First, the city seeks proposals from attorneys or law firms for negotiation, preparation and filing of temporary and/or permanent easements of about 48 separate parcels of property that the city will need to complete the Meadow Brook project. Work may include undertaking and litigating eminent domain proceedings, as required.

Appraisal services: Second, the city seeks proposals from real estate appraisers for valuations of affected properties. Appraisers might be required to meet with city representatives in the office and/or the field to review appraisals, assist in negotiations and perform other duties.

"It's a big list (of affected properties), so we're looking for some some supportive services there," said city Business Administrator Eileen Cipriani. "We're looking for outside legal resources to help us accomplish that."

The underground brook runs from Dunmore and Forest Hill cemeteries to the Lackawanna River. The intermittent brook is dry at times but can become a deluge during heavy rain.

About 28 years ago, the state completed part of a flood-control project that upgraded the portion of Meadow Brook from the Lackawanna River to about the 1600 block of Penn Avenue. But the project then fell dormant and the rest of the conduit, from the 1600 block of Penn Avenue to the cemeteries, never got replaced. This length is the section of conduit now on the drawing board for replacement.

In more recent years, parts of the old concrete conduit in this section collapsed under some backyards in the 1700 block of Wyoming Avenue. During times of heavy rain, the broken conduit caused severe flooding of yards and homes. Several homeowners in that block sued the city in recent years over the stormwater flooding issue. The first suit, by homeowner Albert Young, went to trial in 2020 and a jury found the city negligent. But earlier this year, part of the monetary damages were overturned on appeal. The Meadow Brook culvert in Scranton starts in a wooded section of the former Scranton State School for the Deaf property, now owned by the Jarett Yoder Foundation, a Berks County-based nonprofit veterans assistance organization.

From there, the conduit goes under Electric Street and along the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church at the corner of North Washington Avenue. The conduit crosses under North Washington Avenue and continues through Sturgis Park at 1700 N. Washington Ave. at Electric Street. The conduit then winds through backyards and between some homes as it meanders to the 1600 block of Penn Avenue.

The work of the conduit replacement would be done by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The tentative start date for construction is December 2024, and all easements will need to be obtained by the city before the DEP can put the project out for bids, DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said in an email.

With a construction estimate of $11.5 million, the project calls for replacing the entire conduit and could take 24 months, Connolly said.

Young also said his understanding of the situation is that all of the work done recently in the backyards of his block on Wyoming Avenue is temporary and will all be replaced under the long-term project with a larger conduit.

"They're supposed to redo what they did in our backyard," Young said.

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