A member of North United Methodist Church mops the kitchen a day after the building's basement flooded. The base of the island on the right, less than a year old, was damaged during the flooding. Shahrzad Rasekh / CT Mirror

Barely a week after federal, state and local politicians crowded onto her front yard for a press conference and promised to fix long-running flooding issues in Hartford’s North End through a $170 million project, Nikeda Parkes watched the torrential rains on July 4 seep into her bedroom.

The flooding in her backyard has gotten into the foundation through the roots of a large tree stump, slowly cracking it and allowing water into her Granby Street home.

“We have over $6,000 in damages already,” Parkes said. “They all said to wait that help is coming but it may be too late for me.”

All across the North End residents cleaned up the latest water damage. Some homes on Sargeant Street had as much as four inches of water in their basements.

Nikeda Parkes stands in front of her home, which was damaged by flooding from a downpour on July 4, 2023. She has experienced multiple structural issues since purchasing the home. Shahrzad Rasekh / CT Mirror

One of the many speakers at the press conference last week was Bridgette Prince, a community activist that has led the effort to get the government’s attention to what she says is clearly environmental injustice.

“They all talk pretty at the press conference but where are they today when people’s basements are flooded?” Prince said Wednesday as she walked into the North United Methodist Church, which had major flooding in its basement. 

“This is a yesterday problem and if this was another community someone would be here asking people what they needed. ‘Do you need help cleaning your basement? Or finding accommodations?’” Prince said. “Where is anybody saying, ‘How can I help you?’ today not two months from now?”

State Comptroller Sean Scanlon did go out to the area on Wednesday morning after seeing photos on the news of people canoeing down flooded streets and crying as they described basements flooded with a combination of rain water and sewage overflow.

Scanlon visited the church and an adjacent building that flooded so badly several businesses were unable to open Wednesday. He said many questioned when the money the state promised would be available but there was nothing he could do for them yet.

The comptroller’s office will oversee the distribution of a $5 million fund designed to cover the costs that residents have endured or will face if there is another storm and sewage overflows into their basements. An administrator will be hired to review claims and submit them to the state Comptroller’s Office for payment.

“I know that people want help today. And I want to help them today. But we have to get this process right. And there is a timeline prescribed by the legislature that approved this funding that we need to follow,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon said the Hartford legislative delegation has until July 24 to suggest two people to be administrator of the fund, then Gov. Ned Lamont has a week to choose one or nominate his own candidate. 

“As soon as that person is picked by the governor we’re gonna sit down with that person and and hammer out what the application process is going to look like and how people can submit those applications to get funding,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon said funds will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and he estimated it will take until late August or early September to get the first checks out the door. Scanlon said it is important for people to document their losses and take photos of the damage. 

The $85 million to pay the state’s portion of the $170 million project will come from the Clean Water Fund, which is administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, to implement a pilot program that will address sewage overflows in streets and basements homes and businesses in North Hartford.

DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said last week that the funds will be applied to 12 projects proposed by the Metropolitan District Commission to increase protections from sewer and stormwater-related flooding and backups in North Hartford. 

Five projects are slated to begin in 2023, six projects will begin in 2024, and one project will begin in 2025. Officials expect the first shovels in the ground by the end of summer.

The rest of the funding will be provided by MDC, and Dykes said the agency has promised the project costs will be covered within the current MDC rate structure, with no impact on current rates. 

Many of the residents who attended the press conference last week questioned whether the $5 million fund was enough to help all of the residents impacted by the flooding.  

Scanlon said that legislators made it clear if more money is needed they will find it. 

“So I think we’re sort of in uncharted territory here because we haven’t really designed the program yet and haven’t set up parameters to be eligible,” Scanlon said. “All I know is that people are frustrated. I’ve had people show me videos and pictures this morning of people crying because they don’t know what to do.”

Dave does in-depth investigative reporting for CT Mirror. His work focuses on government accountability including financial oversight, abuse of power, corruption, safety monitoring, and compliance with law. Before joining CT Mirror Altimari spent 23 years at the Hartford Courant breaking some of the state’s biggest, most impactful investigative stories.