BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County has authorized a bond of up to $5.5 million to cover buyouts of flood-damaged properties while it waits for federal reimbursement.
The county was notified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in March that its application to buy and demolish 26 homes substantially damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 was approved.
Now the acquisition of flood-damaged properties by the county is about to begin, and the county will issue bond anticipation notes against the $5.5 million bond to cover the costs.
FEMA will reimburse the county for 75 percent of the costs from the buyout program, Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said.
“Seventy-five percent is FEMA-reimbursable, and the governor has assured us for the other 25 percent, our residents will be covered,” Douglas said.
“When we first explained the process to people, we told them it was a lengthy, lengthy process. We’re hoping we can have some homes torn down this fall.”
The homes are in the towns of Jay, Keene, Essex, North Hudson and Westport. All are either on the Ausable River, Bouquet River or East Mill Brook.
In addition, 11 more homes were approved in May for a non-substantial-damage buyout program. Those properties had less than 50 percent damage from Irene or are not in a flood plain.
The FEMA award for the non-substantially damaged homes was $877,684, bringing the total from FEMA to $3.5 million. That represents 75 percent of the total project cost of $4.7 million. The buyout requires a 25 percent non-federal share.
“We do have round 2 application pending with probably another three properties that are going to meet the requirements,” County Community Development Director Michael Mascarenas told the County Board of Supervisors recently. “So we’re going to be right around $4 million (from FEMA) by the time it’s all said and done. It’s a substantial project.”
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the $5.5 million bond.
Appraisals have been done on the first 26 properties, and once an offer of purchase is made to the property owners, they have 30 days to inform the county in writing whether they accept the offer price and wish to proceed.
“It’s a matching program, so whatever we spend, we get back (from FEMA),” County Attorney Daniel Manning III said.
Manning said they’re hopeful people who get a buyout will stay within the community and build a better home. He said they’ll help people relocate within their towns.
“These are people who were flooded numerous times,” Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said. “The (Ausable) river has changed its course. They’re in harm’s way.”
The county will go to bid soon for demolition of the flood buyout properties.
Only a park can be created on the land after homes are demolished, Douglas said.
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