Among those participating in the meeting were New Boston mayor, village administrator, members of village council, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Ohio EMA, Scioto County EMA, Scioto County Economic Development, the City of Portsmouth, Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives for Rep. Jean Schmidt, Rep. Charlie Wilson, Sen. George Voinovich and Gov. Ted Strickland.
Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineer said New Boston Village Administrator Steve Hamilton was tenacious in his pursuit of floodwall inspection funding.
According to Hamilton, the issue began in 2004 when FEMA issued new guidelines for floodwall defense systems. That was followed by Army Corps studies of the floodwall system shared by New Boston and Portsmouth in 2008 and again this year. Hamilton said FEMA is requiring new studies of those same systems before April 14, 2011. He said it could cost the village as much as $300,000 to hire engineers to inspect their walls, and Portsmouth would cost an additional $600,000; and that doesn’t cover the cost of repairs, which Hamilton estimated at about $6.5 million for the village.
He did ask for stimulus money to cover these costs, but said he was turned down. Now he’s pursuing funding opportunities through Sen. Brown’s office.
“I did ask for $13 million from Sen. Sherrod Brown, for next year, but I don’t know how that will go,” he said. “That will cover the repairs and the engineering. It’s money set aside annually for Sen. Brown to spend, but he only has so much to pass around.”
To save money in a time when the village is already laying off employees and cutting wages, Hamilton asked FEMA if the village can use the most recent inspections made by the Army Corps of Engineer. During the meeting on Tuesday, representatives from both FEMA and the Corps explained that the Corps studies cover some of the items FEMA is looking for, but does not cover all of them. Consequently, the village will still need to hire local engineers to inspect the wall to meet FEMA requirements.
If either the city or village cannot meet the inspection deadline, or cannot afford to make the repairs needed to its floodwall defense system, the system will be discredited and residents will be required to purchase their own private flood insurance if they wish to protect their properties.
“But the federal government, if it’s accredited, they have their insurance that all these insurance brokers are supposed to have that says residents aren’t going to pay over this much money,” Hamilton said.
He said he wasn’t sure that the wall wouldn’t be accredited, but warned that it’s an expensive project for which the village can’t find the funds.
Laurie Smith-Kuypers, from FEMA, explained that if the inspection fails or is incomplete in April 2011, there would be an 18-month grace period for residents to purchase their own insurance before FEMA mandates it of them to ensure their property is financially protected. She also reminds people that disaster relief may still be available should it be needed in our area, but said it will never cover as much as is covered by private insurance.
Additionally, if you have already received an assistance loan from FEMA but have not kept up the terms of your loan agreement, FEMA will not provide you with another loan should you need one.
Smith-Kuypers urges residents to purchase their flood insurance now, saying that it could save them a lot of money because current insurance rates are based on FEMA flood maps completed in 2002. But new preliminary maps show that the floodway has moved since 2002. Those maps won’t be published until April 2011.
“If they’re in the X-zone now (non-flooding) and the preliminary shows them going into the A-zone (flooding), then they can buy the Preferred Risk Policy which the least expensive policy that provides coverage,” she said.
Those preliminary maps are available now for village residents to see in Hamilton’s office, or at the Wastewater Office for residents of Portsmouth.
“They can come in and look at them and sit down with me and I can show them if they’re in a floodplane or floodway. They can come in here and I can tell them,” Hamilton said.
If the existing map shows that you are not currently living in a floodway, but the preliminary map shows that the floodway has moved to include your property, Smith-Kuypers strongly urges property owners to buy their flood insurance now while their rates are still low. Once the new map is published in 2011, those existing policies will be grandfathered in to allow residents now determined to be living in a floodway to keep their lower rates.
Flood insurance should be available from your private property insurer.
“If their local insurance provider doesn’t have it, they can get it from me,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said it’s very important for people to get their insurance now, using the 2002 map before it’s replaced with new maps that extend the floodway. Smith-Kuypers also added that if local flood insurance agents don’t know about the Preferred Risk Plan, they can find information at www.floodsmart.gov.
“I hope the people in the meeting understands that the village does care about its residents and we want to do everything we can to get these flood levies and pump stations accredited before next year. But that’s going to be very expensive and we don’t have the money to do it,” Hamilton said.
In the meantime, Hamilton will begin speaking with engineering companies before he considers taking the floodwall inspection out to bid. He hopes he can find a company who can complete the inspection within the village’s already tightening budget. He said he’s also exploring joint funding opportunities that the village can share with the city of Portsmouth. With less than a year to go until the FEMA deadline approaches, Hamilton will continue writing letters and asking for help anywhere he can find it.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or e-mail email@example.com.