• 73°

FEMA visits former flood area

AHOSKIE – The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Community Assistance Program recently visited the Ahoskie Creek Park Recreational Complex for a visit and tour according to the town’s Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Director Paul Vaughan.

Vaughan reported on the visit when he appeared before the Ahoskie Town Council at their January meeting earlier this week, as he attended the tour last summer of the complex along with FEMA officials.

It was this area of town near NC Hwy 42 South that severely flooded during Hurricane Floyd in mid-September 1999. An entire neighborhood was lost in the Edgewood Drive/Lakewood Drive area adjacent to Ahoskie Creek. The area housed multiple home sites and the homes there, which suffered significant flood damage, were purchased by FEMA, turned over to Hertford County and then returned back to the Town of Ahoskie.

Since the buyout, the town invested over a $1.1 million of its own money plus received near as much in grant funding to construct what became the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex.

Ahoskie has since participated in the Community Compliance Program as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a complete system developed to identify and resolve program deficiencies and violations, with the objective of obtaining community compliance with NFIP criteria.

The emphasis of the system is on correcting program deficiencies and remedying violations through community assistance and consultation prior to the initiation of an enforcement action by which communities must comply with NFIP floodplain management criteria and correct any problems, remedy past violations, and enforce ordinances for future development.

“It (FEMA visit) took place on August 21, 2017,” Vaughan said. “What it is it’s like a check-up, and I believe this is the first one we’ve ever had.”

Vaughan went on to describe the criteria the inspectors were looking for.

“It consists of providing them with information and whatever changes we had to make,” the Director stated. “Of course, we’ve had a few ‘bumps’, a few things that were brought to my attention.”

Vaughan said of note were the bathroom facilities on Edgewood Drive near the amphitheater which was constructed in 2016, and the welded-steel origami Bear sculpture by Roanoke-Chowan Community College students and staff that is located on Camlin Drive.

“The bear should have been permitted as per FEMA regulations,” Vaughan said.

He said FEMA would be returning this month to review some things and that he would keep the Council updated.

Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse wondered how and why the sculpture came under scrutiny.

“Our bear should have been permitted before putting it out there,” Vaughan explained. “It’s a flooded area, so anytime you put any structure in a flood area you should go through the permit process. Elevation certificates could have been changed due to the flow of the water. Those are some of the things that were brought to my attention.”

“So what was the violation,” asked Town Attorney Buddy Jones.

Vaughan said the permit office would try to craft it back into their final report to FEMA in order to keep expenses down.

“We let them know we’re working on it,” answered Vaughan. “I’ll bring that report back to you as soon as we get all the details down for our response before their visit in January, but it might take as long as April before I know for certain what the town has to do.”

Vaughan said there would be some cost to the town in the form of professional surveyors and engineers to provide a notarized certificate for the necessary elevation, which he said could be expensive; but that the Inspections office would do all they could to keep those costs down.

“We have to make sure first that we’re in full compliance,” Vaughan said. “We have no choice in that because we don’t want to endanger our ability to secure these USDA loans.”

Once more, Vaughan assure the Council members he would have a report for them at the earliest, and that, hopefully, there would no cost to the town.

Town Manager Kerry McDuffie thanked Vaughan for his report and further informed the Board that after checking on the proper regulations, a FEMA permit has been secured for the construction of a gate at the Evans Street entrance to the park, near Academy Street. The Town Council approved the gate installation two months ago, but said it was the background check for the correct FEMA regulations was what McDuffie said had held up the process; but that work on the gate had already begun.

Vaughan concluded his report by informing Council that the Ahoskie Inspections Department will be hosting a dinner at 5:30 on Jan. 27 and inviting all area contractors to come out and meet with his office as well as local and state officials to encourage more building and construction in the Ahoskie area.