By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gays Mills submits FEMA pre-application
GM Village Hall

GAYS MILLS - The Gays Mills Village Board met the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant pre-application deadline, when they held a second special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13 to finalize the details of their request. The deadline was Monday, Nov. 19.

In the pre-application for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance, the board passed a motion made by village trustee Kim Pettit and seconded by Lee Ruegg to allow 14 substantially damaged requests to be submitted for buyouts. The board eliminated seven buyout requests, including one that was not substantially damaged and six that had been elevated previously. Of the 14 submitted for buyout, the board also indicated those buildings should also be submitted for elevation and relocation in order to evaluate if the building is a better fit for those options.

Fourteen requests for elevations were received. Village trustee Krista Eitsert made a motion that was seconded by Pettit to submit the 14 buildings for elevation and also submit them for relocation in the pre-application. Lee Ruegg abstained from voting. The board approved the motion.

There were 13 requests received for relocation. Village trustee Albert Ziegel made a motion to approve the request for the 13 buildings for elevation and also submit them for elevations in the pre-application. The motion was seconded by Pettit and approved by the board. Ruegg abstained.

There are 57 other floodplain buildings that the village did not receive any preference on participating in the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant.  Pettit made a motion to add these locations on the pre-application for relocation and elevation after they are evaluated. Eitsert seconded the motion, which was then passed by the board.

The board also discussed whether the village would change lot prices for relocating buildings to the existing relocation site north of the downtown on Highway 131. It was agreed to add the matter to the agenda of the board’s December meeting.

The final FEMA assistance application is due in March of 2019 and the award of funds is expected in the fall of 2019, according to CDA’s Klemme. That’s a long time to wait, the consultant noted.

The board began with a meeting on Friday, Nov. 9 that was attended by about 50 people–many of whom own property damaged in the August flood.

At the Friday meeting, village president Harry Heisz explained that the board would have to balance the needs of the affected residents with the needs of the village. He warned some people might not get what they want.

The village is trying to find a balance between helping affected residents and maintaining a property tax base and utility user base.

The Friday meeting took some twists and turns, as Community Development Alternatives director Dale Klemme reviewed the situation faced by the residents and the village. Essentially, Klemme said there would be three basic alternatives offered through FEMA. Damaged structures could be elevated and flood proofed or they could be bought out with FEMA funds or the structures themselves could be relocated out of the floodplain.

Klemme discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each option both for the residents and for the village. He noted the rules of the FEMA Hazard Mitigation funds are that if the grant is awarded it will cover expenses up to 87 percent. Another important point is that all individuals on the applications must be voluntary.

Klemme again discussed the FEMA options and some of the impact they would have on the owners of the damaged structures and the village.

FEMA will approve buyouts of some properties. In a buyout, the property is bought out at its appraised pre-flood value. Following the buyout, the land is deed restricted and cannot be developed or built upon. If flood insurance was received and the funds were not used to repair the buildings, the money received will be deducted from the final buyout amount.

One resident at the meeting noted that there is sometimes a substantial difference between the appraised value and the fair market value.

Klemme again reviewed that buyouts will result in the loss of utility users and tax base for the village. He noted the village may want to develop criteria about who qualifies for buyouts.

Another option being offered by FEMA is elevations. From the village’s perspective, elevations would retain the tax base and the utility users. The buildings would be elevated two feet or more above the 100-year-flood level, which is set by the DNR.

The village has retained Vierbicher Engineering to find first floor elevations of 15 or 20 homes that have not gotten a certified elevation in the past. The buildings are largely in the floodplain, but a few at the edges of the floodplain will also be included.

Homes that were elevated prior to the latest flood did receive floodwater, but it was much less, according to Klemme. The elevated houses were required to have flood insurance and following the flood they were required to apply for claims of any damage caused by the flood.

The third option being offered to affected owners is building relocation. The FEMA assistance would cover the moving expense, new foundations and hookups, the consultant pointed out. The new lot would be the owner’s responsibility to find and purchase.

Several people asked if the village would make any of the 24 lots in the relocation area available for $1–similar to the previous relocation. The improved lots are currently priced at about $10,000.

Some concerns were mentioned that repairs to the older homes might be necessary in order to move the homes and have them properly mix with the new homes in the relocation area.

Of the residents with damaged structures attending the Friday meeting, 11 requested a buyout, 10 requested an elevation and 10 requested relocation. Some residents requested two or three options due to not having all the facts at that point.

Not all building owners were present to participate in answering about the options. The village took written requests as well.

At the Friday meeting, Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz asked that village trustees on the board consider some things before it became time to vote on submitting the pre-application for the grant.

Heisz listed the following: water level, first floor elevation, elevated houses, location or section of the village, basement failure, owner choice, 50 percent or more substantially damaged, 100-year flood level, the flood fringe and the floodway, the 12.5 percent of expenses that will not be paid by FEMA and the buildings that were vacant prior to the flood.

Editor’s note: Substantial portions of this story were taken from the notes of another person who attended the Tuesday meeting. The Independent-Scout was not present for that meeting because of other commitments.