Officials start task of flood-plain buyout - Quad-Cities Online: Iowa

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Officials start task of flood-plain buyout

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Posted: Thursday, August 20, 1998 1:00 am

COBURG, Iowa (AP) -- The paperwork has begun, but it may be many months before officials decide whether any homes are sold under the federal flood-plain buyout program from storms that hit Iowa this summer.

Lowland homes in communities along the East Nishnabotna River were flooded after torrential rains hit the area in mid-June. Storms and tornadoes also affected other parts of the state that month. Since then, state and federal emergency management officials have been working with families and municipal governments in 79 counties that have federal disaster declarations.

Now local officials are working to apply for federal home buyouts under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Dennis Harper, grant coordinating official with the Iowa Emergency Management Division, said no applications have been officially submitted, but potentially several counties and towns could file for residents.

The process is slow with lots of paperwork. Once an application is received at the state level, it will be reviewed with others under a cost-benefit analysis. Those with the greatest need are ranked at the top of the list, although Iowa has traditionally approved all residential buyouts in the past. Then proper appraisals must be conducted.

Harper said he tells people the process can take up to 18 months from the actual disaster, which in this case could mean December 1999.

``The paperwork is extensive, and with so many things going on, you just try to do what you can,'' said Pat Hall with the Southwest Iowa Planning Council. When a county or town finally takes over a home, it must be demolished and turned into open space, a park or agriculture land.

Currently, Atlantic and Coburg are looking to apply with about 10 homes each, Hall said. Towns also considering filing applications are Oakland in Pottawattamie County, Guthrie Center in Guthrie County and possibly Griswold in Cass County. Dallas, Fremont and Mills and Montgomery counties also have potential buyouts under consideration.

Under the program, the federal government pays up to 75 percent of the market value on a home. Through a special appropriation, the Iowa Emergency Management Division has set aside $500,000 for the required 10 percent match from the state.

``All of that,'' Harper said, ``is going to depend on the amount of approved projects as well.''

Towns or counties that apply under the program also must put up 15 percent in funding or in-kind work, such as demolishing the homes.

Harper said no application filing deadline date has been set, but he estimates that a deadline probably will be set for six months down the road, possibly January. Then the state can begin reviewing the applications all at once.

In Coburg, about 10 homes could participate in the buyout. That's a problem for a community that has little to no city money for 15 percent buyouts on homes.

``If you know the size or my town, 50 people, there's no money,'' said Coburg City Clerk Nadine Redd. The City Council members ``are going to have to look at the program and see what they can do.''

Redd said the city already has $2,000 in cleanup bills from the June flooding. She said the Coburg City Council will discuss whether residents want to apply for a buyout at its next meeting in September.

Montgomery County officials, who are considering buyouts in the towns of Elliott, Grant and Red Oak, don't want to add Coburg to a possible county application because they don't want to be responsible for the leftover land. Hall spent a day last week talking to both county and city officials about their options.

``It hit a snag,'' Hall said. ``Coburg is a hazard mitigation buyout program, but it needs to be initiated by the city.''

Hall said it might be possible for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or another state agency, to step up and help a town such as Coburg.

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