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City commits $500,000 to flood buyout program

[5/24/03]About $2 million in federal and local funds may go to the purchase of Vicksburg homes and land flooded during storms last month.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Friday to commit $500,000 to match Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for flood buyouts. City Planner Wayne Mansfield said that about 50 homeowners have applied to sell to the government under the plan designed to reduce repetitive claims for taxpayer subsidized flood payments.

“After the April storms, we had an overwhelming number of people wanting to be in the program,” Mansfield said.

On April 6, 8.31 inches of rain was recorded over 24 hours in Warren County after storms passed through the area. About 51 homes were considered heavily damaged and many others had minor flooding.

Some residents had to be evacuated in flood-prone areas including the Hamilton Heights subdivision off Halls Ferry Road in south Vicksburg. The 1960s development was the site of the city’s first buyout of flood-prone homes about 10 years ago. Many homes that flooded last month had never flooded before.

Mansfield said that next week his office will submit the application for FEMA funding for the buyouts. Applications are competitive for a limited federal allocation.

“When we have homes that flood over and over it creates a cost to the public because you have public safety issues and clean-up costs,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

Buyout programs have also been used in areas in the north part of the city near the Ford subdivision. Today, building codes prevent structures from being put in flood-prone areas. Also, homes bought in the plans are torn down and the land must remain vacant.

The buyout program is voluntary and offers are based on pre-flood appraised values. Homeowners who do not sell can apply for low-interest loans and some may receive grants to help with repairs from the damage.

A total of $7.8 million in federal and state disaster aid from FEMA has been approved for Mississippi residents after the storms. Warren County is one of 30 counties that qualified for federal relief for storm damage between April 6 and April 25.

The deadline to apply is June 23.

In other matters the city board:

Awarded a $186,000 contract to Hemphill Construction to replace the bar screen at the waste water treatment plant. The bar screen is the first filter in sewage treatment at the facility.

Approved funding $650 for Mini Summer Playground Camps at city parks June 2 to July 31. The programs are free for children 6 to 12 and will include crafts and games.

Approved a $54,682 supplement to the 911 dispatch center under an interlocal agreement with the Warren County Board of Supervisors. Leyens, who has been outspoken against the supplement, abstained from the vote.

Approved a requested variance from Glen Gregory, 2922 Short Cherry, for the construction of a carport at his house. The Zoning Board of Appeals had approved his set-back variance request, but stipulated that the structure be built out of materials similar to the house. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said that since the house is not in a special district, the city could not dictate the building material.

Entered contracts with three teachers for the Youth Enrichment Summer Program at the Kings Community Center. There will be two session for the program starting on June 2 and July 9.

Approved a contract with firefighters to attend paramedic training at University of Mississippi Medical Center. The course will be funded in part by a grant and will cost the city $750 per person. Under the contract approved Friday, firefighters who fail the classes will have to repay the city for the cost of the course.

Approved a $30,983 purchase order for emergency repairs to a sewage lift station.

The city board will meet again at 10 a.m. June 2 at City Hall Annex.