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February 03. 2013 8:13PM

Executive Council, Gov. Hassan could finalize Irene buyout in Conway

CONWAY - Transvale Acres homeowners are one step closer to being able to sell their tropical storm Irene-damaged properties to the town of Conway.

At the regular meeting of the Conway Board of Selectmen on Jan. 29, the board signed an agreement for a hazard mitigation grant with the state Department of Safety's Homeland Security and Emergency Management operations (NHHSEM). The grant will allow the town to buy 12 properties in the neighborhood.

The project's funding of $738,803 includes $554,102 from FEMA and $184,701 for a local match from a Community Development Block Grant.

The funds will go toward acquiring and demolishing properties in the floodway or floodplain that were significantly damaged by tropical storm Irene. The lots will be left as green space. Participation in the project is voluntary.

The grant will become effective when Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council approve it, which could happen as early as Wednesday. On Thursday, District 1 Executive Councilor Ray Burton said that he supports the request, and that he has advocated for its inclusion on the agenda for the next Governor and Executive Council agenda. Burton said he believes the item will be included on that agenda next Wednesday.

The application for the grant was stalled for several months, after state Hazard Mitigation Committee reviewed it and passed it on to FEMA for a technical review. On Jan. 24, FEMA officials and others met with property owners to explain the delay and the process going forward. At that time, officials said the agreement could be on the desk of the selectmen at the next meeting, and it was.

"NHHSEM has provided tremendous support and continues to help us move this process forward as quickly as possible," Chief Steve Solomon, Conway's emergency management director and Conway Fire Department chief said. "Within two days of FEMA completing the obligation, the state produced the agreement for the town to sign and the town signed and returned it to the state."

Solomon said that the town has been in contact with its congressional delegates several times since last July, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen continues to follow the project and help move it along. He said former congressman Frank Guinta was also a big help.

"We were impressed by and appreciative of the effort that state officials made to move this project along," Earl Sires, town manager said. "(NHHSEM) Acting Director Perry Plummer made this a priority and he and his staff, including Lance Harbour and Kate Peck, have made it possible for us to begin working to help the folks in need in Transvale." He added, "Edna Feighner of the State Historic Preservation Office pushed the historic review through and really expedited the process."

syoungknox@newstote.com


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