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County seeks FEMA grant to demolish flood-prone property

January 23, 2019

Columbia County authorities are applying for a federal grant to help fund an acquisition and demolition project to relieve a homeowner of flooding risks.

Columbia County Emergency Management Coordinator Kathleen Johnson said the sheriff’s office is moving forward in the application process in hopes of receiving a tentative $143,200 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Part of the grant includes up to $20,000 for demolition and is also based off real estate values for the home. Administrative fees could be added on top of those costs.

No formal bids have been made yet and Johnson said they would not identify the home’s location or the homeowner until the grant is approved.

Johnson said because some areas in the county are prone to flooding, local authorities wish to buy a property from a homeowner and then demolish it while reimbursing for the land.

“We want to get rid of those places that are continually flooding and needing to file for insurance,” Johnson said.

Homeowners who receive FEMA money after a disaster declaration are required to purchase flood insurance.

The grant application is due by Feb. 28, Johnson said. From there, the state has until Aug. 20 to get the grant approved through FEMA.

Part of the acquisition and demolition plans include drafting a deed that prohibits contractors from building in that specific location in the future.

Johnson estimated the overall project could take at least a couple of years. The homeowner has not been asked to vacate the property yet.

“It’s a long, drawn-out application process. This is just step one,” Johnson said.

If the grant application is accepted, the federal government could pay 75 percent of the costs, with the state and the homeowner’s local match listed at each paying 12.5 percent of the remaining costs. Columbia County would not have to pay a cent, and local property taxes will not be affected, Johnson said.

Johnson pointed to disastrous flooding in Columbia County in 2008 and 2018. She encourages all residents to prepare for possible flooding this year.

“We don’t know what the spring is going to have in store for us,” Johnson said.

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