FLOOD PLAIN ISSUES ON FRONT BURNER - Commissioners Instructed On Floodplain Enforcement, Residents Hear About FEMA "Buy-Outs"

The Calhoun Commission covered a wide gamut of flood related issues yesterday evening, from re-newed enforcement of the Flood Plain Ordinance of 1991 to commencing the process where county residents can participate in FEMA's "buy out" program for frequently flooded dwellings or businesses.

Larry McCallister, who was selected as the president of the commission for 2004, said "We're going to try and do the best we can for our property holders."

A considerable number of residents attended the meeting, mostly to hear about the possible buy-out of flooded property.

Robert Perry (pictured left), coordinator of West Virginia's National Flood Insurance Program, told the commissioner's that continued participation in the FEMA flood insurance program hinges on continued enforcement of floodplain management regulations that meet or exceed the program's minimal requirements.

Perry said the program is based on common sense requirements that have been designed to cut future flood-related losses.

He said the community's failure to enforce the regulations could result in increased flood insurance rates, or the community could be placed on probation for a period of one year with a surcharge of $50 added to every policy holder.

If the community fails to participate in the program, it could be suspended with no flood insurance available, nor could the county receive other FEMA help in times of disaster

The ordinance requires that a permit be obtained for all proposed construction or development on the floodplain.

It also requires all new construction or land filling, including improvements, comply with floodplain management regulations.

Construction or improvements which exceed 50% of the market value of property on the floodplain requires special considerations. Such improvements cannot be made without following floodplain construction guidelines, like raising the building.

Perry indicated FEMA guidelines call for all property owners to "clear" their construction plans with the county's Floodplain Officer, even if the property is located above the 100-year flood plain.

While county commissions are compelled to enforce the ordinances, Perry said "looking to future compliance" is essential. Property owners who fail to comply are subject to fines, or in some cases, the construction or buildings being removed.

Calhoun Clerk Richard Kirby, who had been submitting his resignation as the Floodplain Officer, said he may change his mind and continue with the job. "It is a job that no one wants, but it is necessary," he said.

Enforcement issues were brought to the forefront by Calhoun Chronicle reporter Lisa Minney, who wrote that the county has been lax in their efforts, in addition to the Town of Grantsville not issuing permits.

A special hearing was held yesterday evening regarding FEMAs Hazardous Mitigation Program.

County residents who were interested in having their frequently flooded property purchased through the federal buy-out program, had an opportunity to learn about the process.

Fred Rader and Tim Meeks of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Development Council, told county residents the process of selling their property hinges on the availability of funds from year to year.

"This is a good start at the process," said Rader, who obtained names of several property owners who were interested in selling their flood-prone property.