Questions raised over proposed buyouts in Branson

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — People whose homes were flooded by Lake Taneycomo in April and May have begun the process of determining whether to participate in a government buyout of their properties.

About 100 Taney County residents who gathered Tuesday to hear from government officials about the proposed buyout were told the most difficult hurdle might be whether local governments will be able to contribute enough to make the buyouts viable, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

State hazard mitigation officer Sheila Huddleston said federal funds will pay only 75 percent of the home’s value, with the other 25 percent required from the city or county where the flooded home was located.

“It would be difficult,” Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley said of the city paying homeowners 25 percent. The decision would largely depend on how many homeowners choose to become part of the buyout.

The city and county, not individual residents, have to apply for the buyouts. Homeowners are not required to sell their homes but if it is substantially damaged, the owner would be required to elevate it above the flood plain.

Another possibility for the funds is a Community Development Block Grant. Taney County could compete with the rest of the country for funds and it could take up to a year before the funds are awarded.

Jo Ann Erickson and her husband have been living in a hotel room since Easter. She said their home has not been declared uninhabitable, meaning it could be repaired for less than half the home’s value, but they would rather sell.

The Ericksons are willing to take the 75 percent value of their home, but they need the city to decide quickly.

“We want to know our city has our back,” she said. “They’ve been great up to this point. We don’t want them to stop now.”

Huddleston said the cities and counties will have a deadline for determining whether to make the 25 percent match but the clock won’t start until she knows exactly how much federal aid is available.

“I would hope that between now and the beginning of August, (the local governments) will have made a decision,” Huddleston said.

Even after the applications are submitted, it will take one to two years to complete the buyout.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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