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Gays Mills learns FEMA pre-application deadline is coming up soon
GM Village Hall

GAYS MILLS - Community Development Alternatives Executive Director Dale Klemme had the unenviable task of delivering a flood recovery wake-up call to the Gays Mills Village Board Monday evening.

The consultant told the board the flood recovery effort seemed on track until 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, when CDA learned the pre-application deadline for the village to receive FEMA-funded assistance was Saturday, Nov. 17. This assistance would or could include buyouts and elevation-flood mitigation of properties in the floodplain. Those floodplain properties could include not only residences, businesses, churches and municipal property, but the village guidelines could restrict which were available for assistance based on guidelines developed by the village.

Klemme explained to the board that the village might need to look at how the buyouts could affect the village tax base and utility usage base.

Residents and others had already been signing up during the last week for individual assistance to make repairs to flood-damaged property. However, this assistance did not include the potential for a buyout or elevation of property in the floodplain.

The pre-application is exactly that–it is a preliminary indication for FEMA to understand the scope of the request for assistance in the form of buyouts or elevations. The final application for this type of assistance is due on March 19. It will detail which properties are prosed for buyouts and which are prosed for elevations and other flood mitigation. The pre-application will also indicate the estimated cost for each proposed property.

The funding for the buyouts and elevations won’t be available until the late summer or early fall of 2019, according to the consultant.

“That’s pretty late to be getting assistance,” Klemme noted.

The pre-application’s estimates of cost will be used by FEMA in structuring the flood recovery effort. So, the village needs to know how many residences in the floodplain want buyouts and how many want elevation.

“We need to know that sooner than later,” Klemme told the board.

The consultant told the board the village needed to establish criteria by which properties could be included in the buyouts or elevations. Perhaps houses raised above the 100-year-flood level would be excluded from consideration, the consultant used as an example of criteria. The village could also use a certain amount of inches of water on the first floor in the last flood, as a criterion for consideration for a buyout or elevation.

Klemme pointed out an inconsistency of the approach being undertaken. He noted it took the federal government seven weeks to declare a disaster as the result of the floods, but it is allowing just two weeks to make decisions and a plan locally. CDA believes there is a possibility of getting an extension of a week or two on the pre-application deadline.

Klemme went on to discus some of the fine points of what the 50-percent of value limit on improvements on buildings in the floodplain actually meant. He argued that the 50 percent of value being a limit on “modification or additions” did not include the cost of repairing a roof for instance.

Furthermore, Klemme questioned whether a building elevated above the 100-year flood level was in fact exempt from the 50-percent of value limit on work to improve since it was a “conforming” building once it was elevated and the rule only applies to “non-conforming” buildings in the floodplain.

There was some discussion of the need to get certified elevations on 12 to 20 residences in the village that do not currently have such information to ascertain there exact status in the flood recovery effort going forward.

CDA estimated the need for these certified elevations on 12 to 20 properties. Klemme said for income-qualified individuals there might be assistance available through county emergency assistance funds.

The board had previously sought bids from three firms on the cost of doing certified elevations. Those bids were presented at the meeting. Vierbicher Engineering indicated they could do the certified elevations for $400 each, as long as they could do three or more with every trip to the village. For less than three, they would charge $500 each.

Delta Three Engineering said they would do the certified elevations for $675 each. Finally, MSA put the cost at $3,000 for each certified elevation.

The board approved the low bid of Vierbicher.

Two village residents, Erin Martin and Brad Otto, briefly addressed the board with their questions and concerns.

Martin questioned whether she would be eligible for assistance in the form of a buyout or elevation since her house is just beyond the currently defined floodplain. Klemme told her a certified elevation of her residence would be very important in determining what her options would be.

The village resident asked what would happen if the house was proposed to be elevated, but later appeared that was not viable–could the status be changed to a buyout.

Klemme indicated if an elevation was approved, but then turned out to be inappropriate, there was a good chance the property could be changed to a buyout.

Brad Otto, whose house is probably about the closest to the Kickapoo River at this point on the corner of Gay and Orin streets made a sincere and slightly emotional presentation to the board. Otto’s house is very elevated and escaped flooding in this last round.

“While my house was not substantially damaged, I just want the hell out of there,” Otto said. “It’s too damn stressful.”

Otto noted that although his house is elevated above other elevated houses in the village, floodwater from the Kickapoo River came within three inches of the first floor.

Klemme said that houses in the floodplain do not necessarily have to be substantially damaged to be considered for a buyout.

At village president Harry Hesiz’s urging, the board approved having a special board meeting on Friday at 6 p.m. in the Community Room of the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center. The topic on the agenda will be establishing guidelines for eligibility for FEMA-funded buyouts and elevations of properties in the floodplain.

In other business, the Gays Mills Village Board:

• agreed to a memo of understanding with the Gays Mills Economic Development Association for the management of the shared-use kitchen, known as the Kickapoo Culinary Center

• learned the Kickapoo Culinary Center was unable to pay $1,500 toward operation of the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center, which is their annual intention

• approved changes to the abandoned and junked vehicles ordinance related to their storage cost after they have been removed and the permitting of them for repair purposes

• agreed to seek bids on re-roofing 212 Main Street since none were received

• tabled the creation of a flood committee                 

•approved an employee health plan

• renewed the property and liability insurance policy with Tricor-EMC

• approved publication of the proposed 2019 budget and scheduled a public hearing for December 3