$6 million authorized

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WINDSOR – In what town and county officials here are calling the “first bite at the apple”, $6 million has been allocated through NC Emergency Management’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Bertie County and the Town of Windsor.

The announcement was made last week and identifies 55 properties (all residential) as eligible for buyout or elevation. Of those properties, 30 are in the county while the other 25 are located within the town of Windsor.

Once the priority list is submitted to the state, there is a 90 to 120-day review period for FEMA before the funds are released.

Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer said this initial allocation will assist property owners in flood-prone areas who have suffered repetitive flood damage. They receive money for a “buyout” (demolition and acquisition) or elevation of the structure as required by flood plain regulations as recently updated.

“This is the good news that property owners in the county and in Windsor have been waiting to hear,” Sauer said.

“Each of the initial 55 properties identified are residential and there are even more that we submitted for buyout/elevation consideration,” Sauer added, referencing the 102 total parcels ($11.4 million total request) submitted by county and town officials. “We will keep fighting for the other properties, which includes some businesses. We believe that with the $100 million recently approved in the new state budget we’ll be able to seek another big chunk of money.”

Sauer cited the work of Holland Consulting, under a joint contract with the county and the town, will be advantageous in that effort.

“Due to our past relationship with Holland, our application packages for HMGP are coming together quicker. They are very organized in their work,” Sauer stressed.

Based on the action by both governing bodies at a joint meeting of the town and county leaders on June 12, each property will be evaluated and ranked by the criteria and methodology presented by Holland Consulting Planners, and adopted by joint resolution.

“The state, in its assessment, believes that only 30 of these 55 initial properties can be covered by the $6 million,” Sauer noted. “We believe we’ll be able to stretch those dollars even further. We will do our absolute best to help all 55 properties if possible. If we fall short of that mark, we can submit a list of the remaining properties as unmet needs. We will exhaust every avenue for seeking funds for all eligible properties in our community.”

The County Manager added that one way to stretch the initial $6 million in HMGP funds came through an interesting suggestion from Bertie Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper.

“Assuming that these structures will be torn down, which would come with demolition costs, and the debris is taken to the landfill, which would involve transportation and tipping fees, Mitch is interested in assisting with the coordination of control burning for these structures as fire department training exercises,” Sauer said. “Under this strategy, demolition costs would be minimized and the tipping fees for the landfill would be significantly reduced. And, of course, the savings will help the town and county extend their allocation to serve more residents.”

In the areas of the state impacted by the hurricane, North Carolina Emergency Management reviewed 3,000 structures from the Hurricane Matthew disaster zone, of which less than 800 qualified for the program.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal