$11 Million Sought in Federal Funds for Flood Buyout

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Officials in Jefferson County are seeking more than $11 million in federal funds to buy out flood-prone property in Jefferson County.

The funds are being sought in applications filed last week by the county and the cities of Arnold, Festus and Crystal City.

Jefferson County is seeking more than $4.3 million to buy out more than 100 owners of property in unincorporated areas that were damaged in floods this year.

County officials filed their application with two federally- funded programs - a flood buyout program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state-administered Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

If the state program provides funds, local governments would have to provide half the buyout funds. The county and cities would seek matching funds though the Community Block Grant Program.

Elizabeth Faulkenberry, the county's presiding commissioner, said officials do not know how much money may be available. "It's a crapshoot. We're hopeful," she said.

The county has identified 554 structures in unincorporated areas that were damaged by flooding prior to Oct. 31, the cutoff date for these aid programs.

Owners of 266 of those housing units have asked for a buyout. Just 22 of the 106 property owners involved had flood insurance.

But officials said more property owners might join the buyout request, The application deadline of Dec. 1 has been extended to Jan. 15.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County was among 14 counties that President Bill Clinton declared eligible for further disaster assistance last week. This will allow more funds to be allocated for property that sustained flood damage Nov. 13-19.

Victims of that flood who want assistance can call the disaster application number, 1-800-462-9029. Or they can go to the Disaster Application Center at VFW Post 5331 in Cedar Hill Dec. 4-7.

Many of properties included in the buyout applications filed last week have been damaged repeatedly over the last decade by flooding of the Meramec, Mississippi and Big rivers and their tributaries. The County Commission said a buyout, even of properties that were not in the National Flood Insurance Program, would save taxpayers money in future flood relief.

If the buyouts occur, the county and cities will raze the damaged structures and use the land for parks or open space. …