State Says It Will Buy Out Homes Denied By FEMA

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The governor announced Tuesday that the state has come up with the money to help buy those properties that were destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene, and that FEMA has deemed ineligible for its funding.

The floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene destroyed dozens of Vermont homes, some of them carried away whole. But FEMA has decided some are not eligible for grants to buy them from homeowners to reduce the risk of future floods.

"These folks were rejected by the feds," said Governor Peter Shumlin. "They said, ‘No, we’re not going to help you.’ "

Shumlin announced the state will use Community Development Block Grant Funds to cover 75 percent of the cost of buying any destroyed homes deemed ineligible by FEMA.

"We’re going to rebuild this state better  than the way Irene founds us. Everybody’s in," said Shumlin. "And we work together with our extraordinary congressional delegation and with the resources that we have to make sure they get the buy outs that everybody gets so we don’t leave them behind."

So far FEMA has deemed at least twelve properties are not eligible for its funding. At least seven are appealing. But five properties  have no hope of appeal, including four much-loved homes in Jamaica

Karin Hardy is standing where her home, built in 1850, once stood.

"Right here is where the sidewalk would have gone," said Hardy pointing towards the muddy ground. "My front walkway was right here, a stone walkway my boys all built leading up to my front porch."

Nothing is left of it or much of the homes of her three neighbors. Ball Mountain Brook took them all.

"It came across, took the road.," said Hardy her hand sweeping from the brook across Water Street in Jamaica. "That was Brett’s house, Dave’s house, my house, Tracy’s here."

None of these homes was in what’s called the Special Flood Hazard Area on National Flood Insurance maps. These are the maps FEMA uses to determine eligibility for its Hazard Mitigation program.

Hardy had completely renovated her home, as had her neighbor Tracy Payne. Payne says every day since the flood she walks through the rooms of her home in her mind.

"It was straight and true. It was a very, very well-built house," recalls Payne.  "From what I understand when it did finally fall into the river it floated intact  all the way to the bridge  and then when it hit the bridge, it exploded. And I did find some of those pieces of the third floor ceiling, that I had installed, on the bridge, but there really was not much else to be found."

Now  Payne and three others from Jamaica learned the state is committing to paying them 75 percent of the pre-Irene assessed-value of their homes. And the Stratton Foundation can contribute up a total of $80,000 to help buy the four properties.  The Vermont Disaster Relief Fund says it welcomes applications from the Jamaica homeowners for any unmet needs.

Tracy Payne says she’s feeling like she can breathe again.

Karin Hardy says she’s been in tears since she got the news. And that filling out the paperwork for the buy-out will be a joy.

The state predicts it will take several months to complete the process.

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