12 applications for flood buyouts on way to state|[07/22/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The City of Vicksburg is sending off its first batch of flood buyout applications to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency on behalf of a dozen Ford subdivision homeowners. The applications will be reviewed by MEMA and passed on to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will provide 95 percent of the total buyout cost of approximately $400,000.

The process of receiving funds for a flood buyout typically takes 18 to 24 months, but Vicksburg Inspection Director Victor Gray-Lewis said the city is working on speeding up the paperwork.

“We want to cut the timeline down to less than half of that,” he said. “I’m hoping the mayor and board can approach MEMA and FEMA to expedite the process. We’re doing everything on our end to expedite the payments and bring in some affordable housing.”

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MEMA Director Mike Womack has previously told the mayor and board of aldermen he will do everything he can to have checks cut to buyout participants in 90 days from the time applications are submitted. Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens has set a goal of having 25 families moved from their homes within six months through the buyout program.

“If we can get this first phase done relatively quickly and more people are interested, there could be a second phase of buyouts,” said Gray-Lewis.

During Monday’s meeting, with Alderman Sid Beauman acting as mayor pro tem in Leyens’ absence, the board authorized the buyout applications to be sent to MEMA. The 12 homeowners who have thus far agreed to the buyout can opt out of the voluntary program at any time. The total pre-flood appraisal of the 12 homes is about $400,000, of which the city will be responsible for paying 5 percent or $20,000.

The homes bought out will be demolished and the land turned over to the city, that can use it only for public purposes, such as parks.

Flood stage of 43 feet at Vicksburg was topped on March 29 during spring flooding, with the Mississippi River cresting at 50.9 feet on April 21. It was the highest measured river stage recorded at Vicksburg since 1973, when the river topped out at 51.6 feet.

The buyout program was created by Congress to break the flood-repair-flood-repair cycle that drains money from the federally subsidized National Flood Insurance Program. Sellers receive the pre-flood appraised value of their homes and land plus a relocation stipend. The program has been used in Vicksburg and Warren County intermittently with the most buyouts in Hamilton Heights, a subdivision west of Halls Ferry Road.

On the agendaMeeting Monday, the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen:Received a bid from MMC Materials for concrete.Received bids from two companies for four mini trucks, including ATV Trucks of Holly Springs and Sunflower Equipment Sales.Received a bid from Flower Center for landscape supplies.Received bids from Eagle Eye Enterprise and Grass Masters for Riverfront, Art Park and Crawford Street maintenance. A third bid from Bobby Cummins was rejected because it was not sealed.Approved to re-advertise for bids on water and gas meters.Approved a request for advertisement by the Mississippi Moose Association for its 2008 Annual Conference to be held in Vicksburg on Sept. 18-21.Amended the budget to transfer $81,000 to the Vicksburg Police Department capital budget for new vehicles from the U.S. Department of Justice.Amended the budget to transfer $10,844.75 from the right of way department capital budget to the department services budget for contractor services, utilities waste and communications.Reimbursed Fredia Young $42.80 for costs associated with disconnecting a gas meter in error.Tabled a request from the Vicksburg Police Department to sponsor Mrs. Dean Anderson to attend an Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Conference in Nashville on Aug. 20-24.Accepted a letter establishing special assessment and adopt order and resolution for demolition, cutting and site clearing of five properties, including 501 Hutson St., 801 Walnut St., 2500 Oak St., 106 Wabash Ave. and 1301 Prospect St.Granted a seven-year property tax abatement to Randy and Lisa Ashcraft on improvements made to their building at 1221 Washington St.Approved a grant match in the amount of $5,000 with the Mississippi Leadership Council on Aging for fiscal year 2009 Triad Grant Program.Reappointed Bobby Bailess, Benny Terrell and Cliff Whitney to the Vicksburg Convention Center and Auditorium Advisory Board for three -year terms.Approved an August 2008 advertisement request from Vicksburg Main Street Program in the amount of $3,869.55.Added traffic department employee Eric Cockrell to the driving list and authorized Cockrell to take home a city vehicle for on-call purposes.

Added inspection department employee Anthony B. Thomas to the driving list.

Authorized the city clerk to advertise sealed bids for elevator and escalator maintenance at City Hall and the Vicksburg Convention Center. In closed session Monday, the board:Approved an action form for employment in both the street and animal control department.Approved a promotion within both the water main and engineering department.Approved 23 pay adjustments for employees in the city court, inspection, police, fire and gas departments.Accepted a resignation in both the fire and street department.