Columbia County one step closer to grant for property flood buyout

March 14, 2019

Columbia County’s emergency management agency is one step closer to collecting roughly $143,200 in grant funding to acquire and demolish an unidentified flood-prone property.

Kathy Johnson, the county’s emergency management coordinator, said she sent a grant proposal Feb. 23 to state officials, who have until August to get the OK from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’ll definitely keep the documentation here at the county, and maybe that’s all they’ll require,” Johnson said.

It’s unclear exactly when the project to demolish the property could be begin or when it would be completed. The county has declined to identify where the property is located.

The Columbia County Public Safety Committee unanimously voted in favor of a motion Monday for county Human Resources Director Joseph Ruf to write a letter of commitment stating the county will conduct maintenance and monitor the property for three years after demolition. The letter also will pledge that the county never will build anything on that land again in the foreseeable future.

“Generally, these people, they’re coming to us to get out of these situations,” Johnson said, noting that buying such properties from people alleviates worries and headaches of severe flood risks.

How much money the county will pay the homeowner to reimburse them for their property is yet undetermined. That payment will be based in part on tax records and the fair market value of the house, Johnson said.

Wisconsin Emergency Management Assistant Public Information Officer Andrew Beckett said the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which helps determine how much money to offer property owners, relies in part on licensed appraisers who are hired to assess and review properties in a buyout.

The appraiser can either certify or amend local authorities’ proposals as needed, he said.

If a property owner rejects the initial offer, they can pay for an appraiser to conduct another review. Second offers could be somewhere between being the same or a little more than the first amount offered, Beckett said.