MASON COUNTY — Audible frustration could be heard at Thursday’s public meeting meant to discuss new floodplain regulations when it was announced a representative with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would not be attending.
About a half hour into the meeting, Commission President Rick Handley announced he had just been notified the FEMA representative would not be there. No reason for the absence was given. Chuck Blake with the Mason County Office of Emergency Management said he was told, twice, a FEMA representative would be there and Commissioner Miles Epling reiterated the commission was “assured” they would be there to answer many questions the public has about the floodplain issue.
Without the FEMA representative to clarify the new rules and regulations, as one resident put it, there was such a “loose understanding” of the rules and regulations it was “otherwise a waste of time” to have the meeting.
Property owners who were out of the floodplain but now find themselves in it because of new federal guidelines were scratching their heads about what needed to be done to their property in terms of affordable flood insurance or any sort of construction on that property. In one instance, a man’s property was cited as being in violation of the new floodplain by FEMA representatives who visited the area this spring and he questioned whether or not this was valid.
Mike Lieving with Farmers Bank said he wouldn’t blindly accept that the three homes listed as being in violation by FEMA representatives this spring were indeed in violation. He said he felt there needed to be some accountability when it came to verifying these violations and asked who would be the entity to do that?
As one homeowner put it, “we are guilty until proven innocent.”
Larry Jones of Point Financial Services, as well as Mario Liberatore of Ohio Valley Bank, spoke about some of the complicated financing and insurance issues their customers have faced when it comes to portions of property being in a floodplain and actual structures being out of the floodplain.
There were discussions on the bureaucracy of those now in the floodplain needing to qualify for and pay for an elevation certificate for better rates regarding homeowners insurance. Blake spoke about a specific case where not all, but a portion of a resident’s property was in the floodplain and how his homeowner’s insurance rate would’ve been as much as his mortgage payment. Blake said unfortunately, the homeowners and business owners are suffering.
Right now, the county is the agency which is supposed to enforce floodplain violations and without enforcement, the county could be subject to losing federal money for multiple grants and FEMA money should disaster hit, all of which could figuratively affect all of those living in Mason County whether they are in the floodplain or not. Members of the commission have expressed their frustration at being made the entity to enforce these new rules for properties that do not rest within municipalities - municipalities are responsible for enforcing floodplains within their boundaries.
As one man remarked from the audience, he understood Blake’s hands and the hands of the commission are tied right now and they have to comply with the regulations. However, this still left everyone with many questions that needed answered from the agency which determined the new standards affecting people across the country.
Commissioner Tracy Doolittle announced she and the commission would attempt to reschedule the meeting with a FEMA representative in attendance. If this happens, details will appear in an upcoming edition of the Point Pleasant Register.