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January 24. 2013 8:54PM

FEMA says Conway floodplain buyout could be complete by May

CONWAY - If all goes according to plan, property owners who are part of the Transvale Acres Hazardous Mitigation buy-out program could have checks in their hands by May or June.

Representatives from FEMA, state Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials, and town officials met Thursday with the homeowners in the Saco River neighborhood whose properties qualified for the Floodplain Acquisition Program due to the extensive damage from tropical storm Irene flooding. There are currently 12 properties whose owners are participating with the town for the funding.

The owners at the meeting, held in the Conway Fire Department station, were told that it is entirely possible that by early next week FEMA will send Conway a letter of obligation. After that is received, selectmen will meet to sign an agreement with the state. The next step is getting the agreement approved by the Governor and Council, which will likely happen in March.

After that, there's more paperwork for the owners, but most of that is the same kind of paperwork any homeowner goes through when selling property.

"I was expecting to come in and have you tell me we had to wait another year," property owner Susan Wilson-Blaney said.

The town submitted the application for the program in late April last year. The state Hazard Mitigation Committee then reviewed the application, passing it up the ladder to FEMA in July. FEMA completed the necessary site visits in late August. Some of the older properties triggered historic reviews, which have been done, with the State Historic Preservation Office signing off on the proposed demolition of the buy-out properties.

Lance Harbour said that many of the FEMA Region 1 office staff responded to Superstorm Sandy after it struck the region.

"That caused a delay we weren't expecting as well," said Harbour, who was with N.H. Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Thursday and now works for FEMA.

Conway fire chief and emergency management director Steve Solomon told the owners that part of the process going forward is figuring out if there is any duplication of benefits. If a property owner received FEMA or flood insurance funds to do repairs and then did not do those repairs, that amount will be deducted from the buy-out funds. The town will offer to buy the properties for the pre-flood assessed value.

Perry Plummer, acting director of New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management, asked when homeowners could be expecting checks.

"That's a question I wish we could answer," Solomon replied.

Earl Sires, town manager, said that if the Executive Council approves the deal in early March, then the simpler deals could be done within 30 days. However, he added, "We're going to help out some people who are in urgent situations."

"We have people," Solomon added, "living in dangerous situations who shouldn't be there."

The 25 percent match for the Hazard Mitigation grant will come from a $266,000 Community Development Block Grant, which the town was successfully in getting from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority.



syoungknox@newstote.com

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