Matching funds needed for Water Street buyouts in Jamaica

Wednesday March 27, 2013

JAMAICA -- The 75 percent of buyout money that the Community Development Block Grant Program has pledged to the four Water Street property owners cannot happen until the town finds non-federal funding to make up for the remaining 25 percent.

"The other 25 percent can come in a variety of ways," said Kevin Geiger, of Two Rivers Ottauquechee. "How you want to split it, I suppose, can come in a variety of different ways."

Geiger came to the Jamaica Selectboard meeting on March 25 to give the property owners and the board a CDBG Disaster Recovery subgrant agreement. He went through a few steps that the town and property owners should know before moving forward on potential buyouts.

The property owners being addressed had been denied by FEMA. Then their applications were deemed ineligible during a second attempt at seeing if their homes could be bought out using FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program through the use of a different analysis.

They were hopeful that FEMA would pay 75 percent of the buyout. The CDBG program had pledged the remaining 25 percent. When the FEMA buyouts fell through, the property owners did not know what would happen.

A few weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin and the CDBG program announced that the state would still be helping these homeowners with 75 percent of the buyout. The Stratton Foundation announced that it would be contributing $80,000.

The CDBG program has $870,000 for buyouts to those whose homes were destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene. In order for the buyouts to move forward, the 25 percent match will need to be $220,000. With Stratton Foundation funding, another $80,000 could become available for the buyouts.

"So, obviously there's a hole," said Geiger. "In general, the way that would be met is kind of the way if there was no CDBG money and there was a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Homeowners will take part of their earning and (give it to the town). Windham Regional Commission and the town are welcome to look for non-federal sources. It's got to get filled to a certain extent."

Some property owners were concerned with how expenses after Irene may affect overall buyout funding. They will have to make duplications of benefits for funding already received from FEMA for assistance after the flood.

"Hopefully this program goes through," said David Kaneshiro, a Water Street property owner.

Selectboard Chairwoman Alexa Clark told Geiger the town attorney would look at the agreement before the board signs anything. She asked if a rough estimate could be figured out, which Geiger said Two Rivers Ottauquechee could send the Jamaica Selectboard.

"The Selectboard doesn't want a surprise after we sign all this," said Clark.

The estimated costs as of March 25 seemed pretty high, some Selectboard members and Geiger thought. Removing septic systems may be done cheaper and all the costs had been estimated separately by each property in case any property owner backs out of a buyout.

Selectboard member Paul Fraser, who worked intensively on HMGP applications with the property owners, thought the town could get better prices, which would decrease the overall cost of the buyouts. "Everyone knows we've paid several thousand on the HMGP," said Clark. "We can't do the same process and come up with nothing, then face the taxpayer and say we spent this money. I'm not worried about management costs as much as removing septics and other stuff."

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


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