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Hancock asks for help to purchase homes in flood zone

February 25, 1999

Hancock flood plainBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




HANCOCK - The Hancock Town Council has asked the Washington County Commissioners to help pay for the purchase of six properties that are prone to flooding.

The six houses in the flood plain were seriously damaged by flooding in 1996, Town Manager Louis O. Close said.

If a property owner agrees to the voluntary buyout program, the town would own the property, Close said. The town would demolish the properties in order to avoid future problems and liability, he said.

The town might later use the land for a park, he said.

The last County Commissioners' board refused to consider helping pay for the program. The new commissioners said they would look at the idea if the town provides more specific information, Mayor Daniel Murphy said.

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A new slate of commissioners took office in December. Only Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook returned to office.

The town is applying for about $165,000 in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy the properties. The grant requires a 25 percent matching grant from the local government.

The town can't afford to pay the match and is asking the county for help, Murphy said.

Snook said that while he is willing to look at the request, the county hasn't paid for a flood plain buy-out during the eight years he has been a commissioner.

Close said he is going to present a more specific, formal request to the County Commissioners in the next few months. The amount the town is asking from the county may be around $20,000, he said.

Close said he needs to do more negotiations with property owners to see how much it would cost to buy their properties.

There are 13 buildings in the flood plain, including a four-unit apartment building owned by Franklin Courtney, who spoke on the issue at the last Hancock Town Council meeting.

He said he does not think it is fair that only six of the 13 homes would be purchased under the proposed program. The building is in fine condition and he continues to rent out the rooms, he said.

Federal restrictions on property in flood plains prevent him from improving or demolishing the building, he said.

"I thought it was a good deal when I bought it," he said. Now, though, he regrets purchasing the property, he said.

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