After Irene and after FEMA: 'We will be a model'

Monday January 28, 2013

JAMAICA -- There may be other options worth exploring for the property owners who have given up on FEMA.

"Whatever happens in our situation, we will be a model for other people going through the same situation," said David Kaneshiro, one of the four previous homeowners on Water Street whose house had been destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene.

Senior Planner Kevin Geiger of Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission has sent out e-mails requesting that these property owners bring some information to a special meeting that will be held on Jan. 31 at the Jamaica Town Office.

Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission has different services but it has also played a role in different Irene recovery projects. One of the things that the organization does is individual assistance, which would pertain to these property owners.

Geiger wants the property owners to bring the contract from their mortgage holders and the amount still owed. He also wants any letters from FEMA and insurance companies.

"They must have questions for the homeowners," said Jamaica Selectboard Chairwoman Alexa Clark. "This will be more of an informational meeting, so we can decide whether we go through with it."

There are a few avenues that the Jamaica Selectboard and the property owners could take. Some options include getting assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, other banks or private donations. The town could potentially buy the land as well.

"It's going to be interesting to have them (Two Rivers) there to see what they're going to offer, how long it's going to take and the restrictions," said Clark. "We know what questions to ask now and what we're looking for."

Since the buy-outs from FEMA have been deemed ineligible after the last attempt at applying for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the property owners are looking for another solution.

The Jamaica Selectboard, which has been working with homeowners, the state and FEMA since Tropical Storm Irene, has a lot of questions that will need to be answered before the board can move forward and figure out what the best possible route will be.

State Hazard Mitigation Officer Ray Doherty had performed a cost analysis and told the property owners they wouldn't qualify for the HGMP funds.

Since Irene, the property owners have looked for a solution to their problem. The Stratton Foundation helped them, David Kaneshiro told the Reformer.

"They have helped us out a little bit financially in the very beginning," he said. "They also helped me arranging this place here (in Weston) with some of the furnishings, too. They went through a lot of effort for the other three, too."

While Kaneshiro and the three other previous homeowners hold out for another verdict, the Stratton Foundation continues to try to do what it can for the victims.

"They're standing by to see how everything rolls out," said Kaneshiro.

One of the members of the foundation is district State Representative Patti Komline. Kaneshiro said that she has been in touch with people from the state who are trying to help.

About a month ago, a disaster recovery case manager from Southeastern Vermont Community Action had been assigned to assist Kaneshiro. He had received contact from his case manager after the property owners were informed that they could be deemed ineligible for HMGP funding.

"We've learned a lot," said Clark. "The Selectboard is being very cautious with this next avenue. We have to be."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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