By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Jay resident Chad Garcia and his family returned to their home after Tropical Storm Irene only to find it in ruins.
He is about to get the first of 26 federal buyouts for residences destroyed by the 2011 floods in Essex County.
On Monday, the Essex County Board of Supervisors approved an $800,000 bond-anticipation note to start the process this month for the first seven properties.
The county will draw on a previously approved $5.5 million serial-bond issue to pay for the program, which will be partially reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
County Attorney Daniel Manning III told the Board of Supervisors the county is ready to approve documents and issue checks to homeowners.
Closings are being scheduled, he said, with Garcia’s the first.
“We’re closing this Friday,” Garcia said in an interview with the Press-Republican. “I’ll be happy when the process is over. All the people have been tremendous throughout this whole thing.
“It couldn’t have gone any quicker with all the hoops you have to jump through.”
The first seven properties were chosen because they have unencumbered titles.
“Some of them have estate problems, other problems,” Manning said, and will be done later.
The county has paid for surveys and abstracts of title for the parcels.
“They were based on clear title, a lot of things,” Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said. “We prioritized the ones that had clear title.”
Nineteen of the homes are in the Town of Jay and four in the Town of Keene, with one each in the towns of Essex, North Hudson and Westport. All are either on the Ausable River, Bouquet River or East Mill Brook.
FEMA says the homes must be torn down within 90 days of the closing, but the county has asked for an extension in case it goes slower, Douglas said.
“We are moving forward on the program,” he said. “Two years is a long time, but that is normal when you’re doing buyouts.”
Only a park can be created on the land after homes are demolished, Douglas said.
‘LIGHT AT TUNNEL’S END’
FEMA will reimburse the county for 75 percent of the costs from the buyout program. The buyout requires a 25 percent non-federal share, which the state is expected to cover.
“It’s a very frustrating process, but we see light at the end of the tunnel,” Douglas said.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the bond-anticipation note, with Supervisors Roby Politi (R-North Elba) and Debra Malaney (R-Ticonderoga) absent.
Garcia said he, his wife, Marla, and their two boys, Carson and Luke, along with the family dog, Otis, got out just in time before the storm smashed into their home in Jay’s AuSable Forks hamlet.
“When we returned, (Irene) had blown a wall out; it did a good job of destroying everything.”
The basement, kitchen and roof were all smashed to pieces, he said, with major damage throughout the house.
Garcia said they are using the money from the buyout toward a new home.
“We’re going to close on our new house next week. We’re still in Jay, but nowhere near the river.”
Email Lohr McKinstry:firstname.lastname@example.org