Buyout Hopes Hinge on Application Flood-Affected Residents Hear Untimely Details of Appeal to Federal Officials
Post-Dispatch, Barb DePalma, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Bellefontaine Neighbors residents affected by flooding could be eligible for a buyout if an application by the board of aldermen is accepted by federal officials.
The board heard from flood-affected residents during a special meeting last week. Most residents said they feared future flooding and wanted to be bought out.
Although the buyout application is due Dec. 1, residents were told a buyout decision might not be made for at least four months. Residents also learned that, even if a buyout is approved for the 21 homes affected by the flooding, it could be several years before payments arrive.
"Buyouts are completely voluntary decisions for the residents," said Mayor Marty Rudloff. "However, there are no guarantees. We don't even know if the funds are available."
Rudloff said it is the community's responsibility to have a flood management program in place and that the board of aldermen and city officials are developing a solution that they hope will help residents, but not jeopardize their flood insurance.
During the meeting, residents learned of two possible buyout options.
Residents covered under the National Flood Insurance Program may be bought out if their home has been damaged by three floods in five years, or by one flood which caused damage equal to half or more of the property's value.
Under the program, title to the damaged property is transferred to the municipality and the land is converted to green space.
The second buyout option would occur under a Hazard Mitigation grant program. This money generally is used by uninsured homeowners or those having less than 50 percent damage to their home. This grant provides half of the property value, with the remainder being matched by other sources, such as city funds or in-kind services.
This program also helps remove damaged structures from flood-risk areas. As in the first option, the property is cleared and converted to recreation use or green space.
Cheryl Adelstein, of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, explained things this way: "The bottom line is residents will not receive any windfall from a buyout. It's not a fast process. Some of the 1990 flood victims who are part of a buyout process are only beginning to receive their money now."
"The government will let us know within six months if the application is approved," said Adelstein. "After that, there is no guarantee as far as how fast the process will go."
Resident Pat Kennedy said she was angry with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, for allowing the buyout process to take so long. "If they want to remove us from a hazardous situation, it should be full speed ahead," Kennedy said. …