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County working on flood buyouts

Decatur County is preparing to submit an application asking the federal government to buy out flood-damaged properties.

Currently, about a dozen properties qualify for the buyout program, in which property owners would be paid a portion of their homes’ values. In exchange, the properties would be declared unlivable and no future re-development could be done.

To qualify, the properties have to have experienced three flood events, said Barbara Parsons, assistant to County Administrator Tom Patton. Fifteen property owners applied for a buyout after the flooding of the Flint River and Big Slough in April 2009. Flood waters destroyed the then-recently-paved Slough Loop Road and cut off residents’ access to their homes and potable water for more than two weeks.

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany, Ga.) both toured the county after the flooding and helped start the process for obtaining disaster relief funds. Public notices about the buyout program were published in August 2009. On Feb. 14 of this year, Parsons and other county officials toured flood-damaged properties. Eleven of the 15 original applicants were found to qualify for a buyout.

Citizens to get answers on flooding

At county commissioners’ Feb. 23 meeting, citizen Richard Jordan expressed concern that under the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood mitigation program, officials were discussing building back Slough Loop Road the way it was shortly before last April’s flood.

County Administrator Patton has previously said the engineering of Slough Loop Road was solid but noted that no one could have expected a 100-year flood event to happen right after it was paved. Jordan said his property was ineligible for the buyout because it had only been flooded twice. He asked if county officials had considered other alternatives.

At their Tuesday meeting, Parsons said the buyout program was continuing to move forward but said some of citizens’ questions could not be addressed until GEMA addresses the county’s application. The county will submit its application before April 16 and then GEMA will have three months to consider and respond.

Parsons said county commissioners will have three obligations related to buying out the damaged properties: they will have to determine whether homeowners will be paid for the pre-flood or post-flood value; determine how to calculate the fair market value of each property, either by using its assessed value or the International Code Council standard of $98 per square foot; and lastly, whether to allow homeowners to appeal their buyout amount after it is offered to them.

Cold air, supply issues have delayed road projects

Near the close of Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Russell Smith asked for an update on the resurfacing of John Sam Road and Hales Landing Road, projects that he noted appeared to have stagnated.

Recently-promoted County Public Works Superintendent Dennis Medley explained the delay has been due to a combination of cold weather and supply issues.

The particularly cold winter Georgia has experienced has affected road projects because the leveling asphalt used to resurface roads can only be put down when the outside temperature is 55 degrees and rising, Medley said.

Because the projects are b’eing done through the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Assistance Road Program, the county’s workers must use asphalt that meets DOT standards, Medley explained.

The problem is that Oxford Construction is preparing to resurface part of Georgia Highway 93 in Grady County beginning March 18, Medley said. Because Oxford owns the only sources of DOT-approved asphalt in the area, they are expected to use all of the available asphalt from their plants for their own project, he said.

Medley said he hopes to complete as much as possible on the Hales Landing Road resurfacing before Oxford begins its project, which is expected to take about three weeks. After Oxford is finished, County Public Works will work on the resurfacing of John Sam Road.