Sidney "Sid" Smith of Au Sable Forks shows where the water level reached in his house.
Property buyouts for those who suffered substantial damage from Tropical Storm Irene is on the horizon.
Essex County Community Resources Director Michael Mascarenas said his office should soon hear from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the matter.
“Currently, we are in the application phase,” Mascarenas said. “FEMA turnaround time is very short. When they come back with an award for us, we need to go out and do appraisals for these homes and we need to be able to do it fairly quickly.”
Mascarenas asked the Economic Development Committee of Essex County to allow the purchasing agent to send out RFP’s for appraisers, which would be ready to go when word comes back from the federal agency.
Keene Supervisor William Ferebee explained the appraisal process.
“We will hire an appraiser and it will be paid for through FEMA,” Ferebee said. “If they do not believe that the first was done fairly they can bring in their own out of their own pocket, and there could be a third if the first two do not come within 10-percent of each other.”
“We negotiate a purchase price with the homeowner,” Mascarenas added. “Once it is agreed to, the homeowners are cut a check and then the site is our project and we will then work to clear the property. Once done, the property will be declared open property and will revert back to the town.”
Mascarenas said cleanup expenses would be covered through FEMA for the properties and that the agency is working to have everything resolved by the end of the year.
“They are moving rather quickly, I would say,” he said. “The people that are most in need right now, that is where the focus is. Everybody that is 50-percent damaged or more, I am submitting. Ultimately, FEMA works like insurance adjusters and they do not want to be coming back here 10 years from now and buying out someone else who owns it.”
County Chairman Randy Douglas of Jay asked about those who may have already received settlements through their insurance company.
“Property owners that have flood insurance on their homes and have moved on, do they qualify for the buyout or not,” Douglas asked.
“If a person had a home that was assessed at $100,000 and insurance gave them $100,000, then FEMA is not going to buy them out,” Mascarenas said. “If they get less, then FEMA will pay the difference and then we do own it.”
Douglas said that was creating a new issue.
“What I am running into are the ones that left their old homes and are in the process of buying new homes have just left them and they are going to come back to us anyways because they are not going to pay taxes on the old property,” he said.