published Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Scottsboro buying flood properties

Scottsboro, Ala., has purchased almost all the most frequently damaged properties on the town's flood-prone East Maple Street in an effort to eliminate private losses.

"In the last 15 to 20 years, this particular area on East Maple Street has flooded probably three times," Scottsboro Mayor Melton Potter said of the short road on the north end of town sandwiched between a 200-foot-high hill to the north and a railway to the south.

"The last one came about three-and-a-half years ago when we received about seven inches of rain in two hours and it got up in several houses," Potter said.

That episode prompted officials to seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, he said.

The purpose of the federal grant is to reduce the loss of life and property from natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster, according to the FEMA program's website.

"There were 15 pieces of property, most of them had houses on them, and we went to get appraisals performed on the property -- the appraised value before the flood," Potter said.

Property owners could choose whether to take the town's offers, though only one property owner has declined to sell, Potter said. That property -- one of four still under negotiation -- is probably the least affected by flooding, he said.

So far, the city has purchased 11 of the 15 parcels and has demolished the structures on most of those, he said.

The FEMA grant -- which requires a 25 percent local match in funding or in-kind work -- totals about $725,000 with the city's part making up about $181,000, he said.

City engineer Charles King said the flooding in August 2010 was the trigger for local officials.

"The city wanted to come up with some way of mitigating the situation," King said on Monday.

"We're over halfway at this point," he said of the negotiations. "We're going through one by one and finishing up the process as we go."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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