Saturday, July 2, 2011

Indiana flood buyout program discussed

Jason Jacobs in the Brazil Times (Indiana): Area residents learned more about a voluntary buyout program of homes located in a floodway. On Wednesday, Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) Mitigation Program Director Manuela Johnson led a meeting about the Mitigation Acquisition Program at Brazil City Hall.

"Our purpose is to provide general details about the program and make the public aware of the options being looked at," Johnson said. "Should there be enough interest generated, we will conduct more meetings in the future to go over specifics."

She told those in attendance the program is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which allocates grant monies for the acquisition of homes located in a floodway. "The program is 75-percent federal funds, and requires 25-percent local funding, which does not necessarily have to be cash," Johnson said. "However, the program is also 100-percent voluntary so the city and individuals are not forced to participate. Also, at any point up to three days after the funding is allocated, an individual may back out if they change their mind."

...She added the acquisition program is not a quick process, and it could take approximately three years for funding to be released to agencies. "Normally, it takes about six months just to write the grant application," Johnson said. "Part of the reason for this is we have to pull the property cards to get the assessed value, take photos of the homes for an environmental and historical survey and take a survey of the first floor elevation for the cost-benefit analysis."

..."Once title work and closing on the property is complete, the home may either be relocated or demolished, and the land has to be held by the city into perpetuity, or in other words, forever," she said. "The land is then considered 'flood storage,' and cannot be sold to anyone else, including developers. It can be turned into a public park or walking path, and we even had one community turn it into soccer fields."

She informed the crowd a priority list is composed of homes with the most need to be acquired and attempts are made to get an entire group of homes in one area, rather than "hop scotching" a home here and there, in order to provide a more efficient floodway....

The Clay County Courthouse in Brazil, Indiana, shot by William Eccles

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