12/24/06 — Duplin gets access to flood fund leftovers

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Duplin gets access to flood fund leftovers

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 24, 2006 2:15 AM

With roughly 25 to 30 percent of Duplin County in the 100-year flood plain, several county residents are trying to take advantage of a new potential buyout program to sell their properties and rebuild.

Notified about a week ago that there might be some Federal Emergency Management Agency money available from North Carolina Emergency Management, county Planning Director Randall Tyndall began putting together a grant application. It was due Thursday.

"What it is, is basically money that is left over from Hurricane Ophelia from the storm damage on the coast," Tyndall said. "The state said because of our historic flood problems, it was something we could make an application for."

But not just any property owner can qualify for the buyout.

"We have to pre-identify the candidates. We have to document that each of the people had significant damage that was because of flooding," he said. "Those who we could prove the easiest, were those we chose to submit."

Significant damage is defined as more than 50 percent -- of documented -- property loss because of flooding.

Beginning with a list of people affected by Hurricane Floyd, Tropical Storm Ernesto and the flooding three weeks ago, the county investigated 12 claims.

Of those, only eight qualified.

In total, including the buyout, the demolition costs and the administrative work, the project is going to cost about $2.2 million.

Of that, about $800,000 will be going to the property owners -- six private residences and two businesses.

None of it is coming out of the county's coffers.

"This is strictly a voluntary program. The people will only be paid the pre-flood (pre-Floyd) appraisal," Tyndall said. "They will not be paid replacement value.

"We're going to acquire the property and turn it into open space and allow the people to build elsewhere."

The county will not be buying any more property than is absolutely necessary to access and demolish the structures.

Once they buy it, according to the grant requirements, no structures -- unless specially approved and built to new flood prevention standards -- can be built on the land. Similar restrictions will apply to any surrounding property affected by the buyout.

In the past, Tyndall explained, the county has leased such property for use as open space -- extra fields or gardens for farmers, ballfields and parks. Most of those contracts involve less than $50 a year. He plans to use that approach again.

"We've tried to be kind of creative with that and it's worked out pretty good for the county and for the citizens," he said.

Tyndall hopes to find out in the next few months whether or not Duplin will be receiving the money.

"We're in the very infancy of this very regimented process," he said. "We are not the only county applying for this funding, but (state officials) have said we probably stand a better chance because of our history of flooding."

Tyndall's also hoping that more such money will be coming toward Duplin County in the future because there are more people looking to get out of their flood-prone homes.

"We've been trying to get additional funding since Hurricane Floyd and this is the first time in five years we had more come available without obligating the county to a match. As more comes available, we will try and inform all our citizens," he said.