published Monday, November 21st, 2011

Jasper, Tenn., approves FEMA-required flood ordinance

By Ryan Lewis/Correspondent

JASPER, Tenn. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires municipalities to approve a standard ordinance to maintain their eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Last week, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the ordinance by a vote of 4-1.

Alderman Paul Evans, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the ordinance should be tabled because he wanted to examine the new flood map before voting to see if it met with his approval.

"When we approve [the flood maps], we're taking the responsibility," he said.

City Attorney Mark Raines said the appeals process for any changes to the maps was completed "several months ago."

"You don't get to appeal, and appeal and appeal," he said.

"[The town] is supposed to submit all its requests for changes during the one appeals process," Raines said. "If it wasn't addressed at that meeting, it should've been. If there is an area that's an issue on that map, the city can't change it now."

The wording of Ordinance 346 is identical to a previous ordinance that maintained the city's eligibility for flood insurance, except it recognizes the Southeast Tennessee Development District as the planning agency, Mayor Billy Simpson said.

"[The flood maps] have been drawn, and [Jasper] can't change them," Simpson said.

"It would be up to FEMA to approve any changes. We don't have any say in that," the mayor said. "We don't need to fool around and lose our eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program."

Simpson said that nearby Dunlap, Tenn., recently opted not to approve the flood maps and "they're in a mess now trying to get in [the program]."

"I don't know if changes can be made, but I would like to see what changes were made after that [appeals] hearing," Evans said. "I was at the hearing, and I know what all was [requested]."

Alderman Steve Looney made the motion to approve the ordinance on first reading and said, "FEMA isn't going to wait on Jasper."

FEMA redraws the maps every 10 years, officials said, and the new maps go into effect Jan. 6.

The board will consider the ordinance for a second and final reading at its next meeting Dec. 12.

"What it boils down to is we can't change [the map] even if we don't like it," Simpson said. "It's done. That's it."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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