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County pursuing flood grants

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 15, 2008
— Up to three-quarters of the substantially flood-damaged houses in five Rock County townships might not qualify to be bought and demolished through a federal grant, planning director Scott Heinig said.

Instead, the owners might have to bear the cost themselves.


That’s Heinig’s best guess from the total of 80 houses in Beloit, Rock, Janesville, Fulton and Milton townships that county planning staff think might be substantially damaged by flooding.


County staff on Thursday night got the go-ahead from the county board to apply for two grants to buy and demolish damaged houses along the Rock River.


The county will apply to the state for the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant and the Community Development Block Grant.


The grant money is not endless. The state has about $25 million in federal money to buy and tear down qualified houses as part of the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Wisconsin Emergency Management spokeswoman Lori Getter said.


That’s $25 million to go around in the 30 counties declared disasters, Getter said.


When reviewing applications, the state will look first at substantially damaged primary residences in the floodway—the portion of the floodplain that holds moving water during a flood.


“Substantial damage” means repairs would cost more than 50 percent of the house’s assessed value.


To get the grant, the county must commit to matching 12.5 percent of the cost of acquisition and demolition. The state would commit another 12.5 percent, and the remaining 75 percent would be the federal money.


That’s where the second grant comes in. The county will apply to the state for the Community Development Block Grant to cover the county’s 12.5 percent share.


The state’s $15 million in community development block grant money has been redirected to flood damage repair, Heinig said. Across the state, the money will be used to cover the 12.5 percent local match for the hazard mitigation grant and to fix minor flood damage to the homes of low-income families.


The money, for example, might go to a low-income family to fix a furnace damaged by floodwater, said Dave Somppi, Rock County housing and community development director.


But the block grant money may not be used for secondary residences such as vacation homes, Heinig said.


The county has asked the five towns to cover the 12.5 percent local match required to buy and raze vacation homes. So far, the towns of Milton, Fulton and Janesville have said, “No.”


The town of Rock agreed to the plan. The town of Beloit will vote Monday.


In townships that decline to provide the 12.5 percent local match, owners of secondary residences might be left to pay for demolition themselves, Heinig said.


“They might not have mitigation options, at least not any we’re pursuing on a county level,” Heinig said.


Houses damaged less than 50 percent or those in the floodfringe—the part of the floodplain that holds standing water during a flood—would not qualify for the grants because they may be rebuilt, Heinig said.



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