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January 14. 2013 9:20PM

Conway homeowners still play waiting game for tropical storm Irene help


Danielle Coimbra talks with Gov. John Lynch and Chris Pope, who was director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at the time, three days after the flooding of tropical storm Irene damaged her Transvale Acres home. The storm flooded the development in August 2011. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)

CONWAY - Transvale Acres homeowners who are waiting to sell their storm-damaged homes to the town of Conway will have to wait a little bit longer. An estimate of how much longer may be one of the questions answered at a meeting held next week for the 12 property owners.

The meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. at the Conway Fire Station. Expected to attend are officials from N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the FEMA Region 1 office.

Conway officials had expected the process to move a little faster, after the state reviewed the application and submitted it to FEMA. The town has been waiting since October to hear the official word that it has gotten the funding. Several weeks ago the town was notified that it needed to supply more information, in this case historic reviews of several of the properties.

"The meeting is to update the status of the program to the property owners and let them know what still remains to be done before we can write checks, " said Chief Steve Solomon of the Conway Fire Department, who is also the town's emergency manager director. "I believe this grant application has moved forward more in the last week and a half than it has in the last three months. I hope we are back on track to getting cash into the hands of those that need the money and taking down a number of hazardous properties to protect the public at large."

Solomon said the review is being completed by FEMA personnel. From there, he said, it goes to the State Historic Preservation Office. "Both the town and the state have prepped the SHPO to receive this packet from FEMA and expedite their review."

The buyout funds are administered by the state and the local municipality, with FEMA supplying 75 percent of the necessary funds. The town has already been approved for a Community Development Block Grant of $266,342 from the N.H. Community Development Finance Authority for its 25 percent match.

Danielle Coimbra is one of those homeowners whose life was upended by the flooding from tropical storm Irene on Aug. 28, 2011. Coimbra was one of the first residents then-Gov. John Lynch met when he toured the devastated neighborhood three days after the flood water ripped through the Saco River community. The home she shared with her young son sits in the higher end of Transvale Acres, an inch or two above, she said recently, in the 100-year flood zone.

Coimbra, who was fixing up her home, had (and still has) flood insurance, but was not able to get a building permit while "FEMA and the town figured things out." She and her son have moved to Massachusetts to live with family, and she continues to pay her mortgage, property taxes and flood insurance.

"For over a year I've had to deal with my insurance company, my mortgage company, the N.H. Attorney General's Office, the Town of Conway. I gave up on FEMA, and now am working on having my local and state politicians help me and my neighbors assist with the buyout. Folks lost everything. There are different stories, but the truth remains: The flood ruined many lives. I'm thankful that nobody was hurt or killed. I'm angry at the process and the fact my son does not have a home in the place we loved so much," she said.
syoungknox@newstote.com


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