Jamaica property owner struggles with Irene aftermath

Friday July 26, 2013

JAMAICA -- Tracy Payne had put a lot of work into her new home on Water Street, but before she could have it re-appraised, Tropical Storm Irene destroyed it.

"I bought the house a year prior to the flood," said Payne. "And I bought it in a super dilapidated condition. It was not livable."

Payne spent a year renovating her new home from top to bottom. She said it was in amazing condition before Irene hit Jamaica. She told the Reformer that she put in all new electric and plumbing and had ripped the walls down to put up new ones.

"None of this makes sense," said Payne. "My experience has been the worst kind of nightmare you can imagine. Imagine losing your home, everything you've ever owned then the lies and deceit, misinformation and bad information. The waiting has just been so awful for me."

On July 24, the Jamaica Selectboard met to discuss the possibility of signing an agreement with Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission. The town would be the sub-grantee and the commission would be the grantee. The homeowners would then receive 75 percent of the price their homes were appraised at. The board ended up postponing its decision so that lawyers could be consulted and review the potential for future lawsuits if the buyout occurs.

Payne said she will not be offered additional funds for any of her renovations. She has already wrote a letter to the governor, asking him to see that her situation is unique.

"All I can hope for now is to get less than what I paid for the house."

Previously, through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Payne said she had been given a number that would have been accurate if she tried to sell her house before it washed away in the storm. Now, there is no consideration for the renovations and improvements.

Payne told the Reformer that she has kept pictures of the renovation work, receipts and proof of every penny spent on the project.

"They're saying it won't be necessary," she said. "So, I've written to the governor, begging him to do something and intervene before this buyout goes through."

Payne said she will be losing $140,000 if the buyout goes through.

Another issue, she said, has been the duplication of benefits, which will be reviewed before payments are distributed if the buyout occurs.

"With the FEMA money, you weren't supposed to spend it on household items, like mattresses and toasters and furniture. Now, they're taking $15,000 off my buyout because they changed their minds at the last moment," said Payne.

The funds are now to have been used for only for the purpose of renting housing or apartments, she said.

For now, she hopes that Gov. Peter Shumlin will acknowledge the repairs and renovation she has put into her home and assist her somehow with securing a better deal.

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


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