Flood buyout plan meeting opposition

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2001

Chickasaw Lane resident Sadie Carlisle tells how she doesn’t want to leave her home of 50 years as friend Randy Cook listens Thursday. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/27/01] Attempts by local governments to buy out homes that flood are meeting opposition from residents who say they don’t want to leave and weren’t offered enough money.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is working in conjunction with federal and local officials to buy what are deemed “repetitive loss structures.”

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Homes that have sustained more than $100,000 worth of damage two times in the past 10 years meet that definition.

In Mississippi, there are 3,300 such structures, MEMA Director Robert Latham said on a visit to Warren County Thursday. More than 440 of the houses are in Warren County and about 117 of them are in the city limits.

Most are along the Mississippi and Yazoo where backwater flooding is the source of the damage. The city and county operate separate flood management programs, but both local agencies are working with MEMA to reduce claims for property damage suffered during floods.

Warren County has the second-highest number of repetitive flood insurance claims in the state.

At some point, FEMA will draw the line and quit spending the money to repair homes continuously damaged by flood waters, Latham said. But, he said all homes are bought out on a voluntary basis.

Residents of flood areas are eligible for National Flood Insurance Program coverage with premiums subsidized from public funds. To keep local eligibility for the program, cities and counties have to prove they are denying new construction in known flood areas and refusing to issue repair permits for homes damaged at more than half their value.

In the first large buyout here, more than a dozen Hamilton Heights homes were purchased and torn down. The home sites are now ineligible for building permits.

Despite the problems in living in a flood area, many residents simply just do not want to leave, Warren County Emergency Management Director L.W. Callaway said.

Of the 324 homes in question, the county has bought eight or nine, and is in the process of buying out 10 more, Callaway said.

Sadie Carlisle, who has lived in her home on Chickasaw Lane for 50 years, said she is not interested in selling. She said her property has been affected by flood waters off-and-on since the flood of 1973, and water has gotten inside her home three times since she has lived there.

“This is just my home,” she said. “It’s where I raised my kids.”

Carlisle said she has maintained flood insurance on her home since 1973, and the amount offered to purchase her home was insufficient.

“They offered to buy me out, but I couldn’t re-establish myself with what they offered and not go into debt,” Carlisle said. Under the program, the offer has to be fair market value on the day before any flood.

She said the county offered her $16,000 for her home.

The money for the buyout comes from FEMA and local governments with FEMA kicking in 75 percent. Homes bought in the flood areas will be demolished and maintained as open space, Callaway said.

The city has been able to buy back 11 homes within its flood plains, and Beatrice Moore, director of Housing and Community Development, said she doesn’t know if more will be bought, although the city is working on it.

“No one else is looking to accept our offer,” Moore said.

Residents in Kings affected by rising water said flooding is only one of their many problems.

“There needs to be a lot of work done down here,” Dwight Blue, 26, said. Blue has been living on Ford Road in Kings his entire life and said the area has always been ignored by the city as far back as he can remember.

He also said he wouldn’t mind if the city bought him out but he wasn’t offered enough money to be able to go anywhere else.

“It’s not hard to leave, but they’ve got to get the money right,” Blue said. The Blues said they were offered $10,000 for their home.

“I really don’t want to move,” Kathryn Blue, 22, said. She said she would just like the city to help out Kings residents more.

The Blues have been living with a gas leak for more than a year, and city crews began working on it Thursday, she said. She also said she’s worried about potential health problems from the leak and the stench that penetrates the neighborhood. The gas bill has been running about $100 a month and numerous calls and complaints to the city have yielded little or no response.

“They don’t do anything down here,” she said. “They won’t fix our roads. They think, it’s just Kings.’ We pay city taxes like everyone else and they won’t clean up our area.”

Mayor Robert Walker said he is concerned with the Kings area and is working to improve it.

“We aren’t giving up,” Walker said. “We want the quality of life in this area to be the same as in other areas. A lot has been done but more still needs to be done.”

This week is also “Flood Awareness Week” and MEMA officials said they are hoping to draw attention to damages and problems that arise in flood plain areas and the need for flood insurance.