Wisconsin Emergency Management Supervisor for Hazard Mitigation Katie Sommers told a crowd of Reedsburg community members buyouts could happen sometime this year.
The information was shared March 9 at one of two community meetings held by the city and FEMA at Westside Elementary School. The meetings provided locals an opportunity to speak up about what they would like to see in a long term recovery plan. The other meeting was held March 7.
Sommers said she hopes buyouts for the hazard mitigation grant program will be “underway by late summer or early fall.” However, the process could get delayed due to the federal shutdown in January and other natural disasters, she said. Applications are due from communities by the end of March to for review to submit to FEMA, she said.
The Hazard Mitigation grant program is 75 percent funded by FEMA and 12.5 percent each from the state and another match through non-federal funded source, like city, private non-profit or property owner, she said. Sommers said other sources could fund potential buyouts like Community Development Block Grants, FEMA Public Assistance Program and the DNR Municipal Flood Control program.
At least 14 houses in Reedsburg were ruled substantially damaged in the flood plain — when costs to fix a damaged building exceed more than 50 percent of its pre-existing value. Those homes are eligible for buyouts. Sommers said certified appraisers hired by the community will value damaged homes at its pre-flood fair market value.
Those values are reviewed by a state appraiser. If and appraisal is ruled valid, the state will “authorize the community to make an offer” to buyout the home at the full amount of the pre-flood appraised market value.
“That’s what they would receive,” Sommers said. “Of course, if they have a mortgage or something that gets paid off first and they would receive the balance. It’s just like any other home sale.”
Sommers said she estimated $10 million is available for buyouts. Those numbers could change when FEMA submits its 30 day estimate telling the state how much money is in its grant program, she said.
“We still haven’t gotten that yet,” Sommers said. “We’re just guessing how much money we’ll have here.”
Wisconsin Emergency Management received applications for buyouts worth $20 million and close to $60 million for other projects related to flood control, like detention ponds, she said.
Not everyone affected by the floods will receive a buyout. The highest priority is to conduct potential buyouts for homes within a floodplain with substantial damage. After those buyouts are completed, Sommers said other criteria is to complete buyouts for properties with repetitive and severe repetitive loss, then properties in and outside the floodway.
“We’re trying to make our money go as far as it can,” Sommers said. “We know we probably won’t get everyone who wants a buyout, but we are hoping we can get all of the substantially damaged (houses) and looking at other homes in the floodway of the river.”
She said the state is working to submit an application to the Army Corp of Engineers for a study along the Baraboo River Corridor to look at potential areas for upstream natural flood storage, to hold more water during flooding and how it could potentially decrease flood risk in the community.
“It’s more of a long term solution plan than an immediate fix,” Sommers said, adding it could take 5-7 years for the process.
Officials from Sauk County Emergency Management and Project Recovery, a program that helps provide long term assistance in flood recovery, was also present to give information on how people can get help.
During the visioning exercise, residents gave suggestions of what could be improved with the city in an emergency: communication during the floods, more downtown shopping and a way to control floods and mitigation efforts by the Barbaoo River.
City Planner/Building Inspector Brian Duvalle said the city received some good ideas to form a flood recovery plan and an updated comprehensive plan. The plan commission plans to discuss potential flood recovery efforts at its March 12 regular meeting to “get the ball rolling” to create a more detailed plan in the future.
Possible 2019 flooding
With the National Weather Service predicting spring flooding as snowfall starts to melt, Reedsburg Area Management Director Josh Kowalke told residents the city is continuing to monitor the Baraboo River levels.
“We’re crossing our fingers hoping that nothing happens,” Kowalke said. “We’re closely monitoring that situation.”
Kowalke told residents to “be prepared” and “think about what floods in and out of your home.” He said the city would have a sandbag location at Webb Middle School and Reedsburg Area High School if additional flooding were to happen.
He stressed for community members to sign up for Nixle, the official emergency communication method for the city and the county. He also mentioned the emergency operations center is available to answer questions and to call the Reedsburg Police Department at 608-524-2376 with questions.
He said the city is continuing to update its emergency operations plan, trying to include other channels to communicate messages with the public, like providing Nixle messages to Reedsburg Utility television channels as another way of communication for those who don’t have cell phones or internet access.