Originally created 07/11/00

State will pay some flood costs



Gov. Roy Barnes said Monday afternoon that residents of west Augusta's Commonwealth subdivision will receive money from his discretionary fund to help cover the cost of hotel rooms and lost wages after recent flash floods displaced them from their homes.

But there is no more yet to buy their flood-damaged homes.

Money for a buyout has not been appropriated, and residents of Dominion Way and Dominion Court are living with friends and relatives or renting apartments until they know whether to start rebuilding or continue waiting for government assistance.

"It's like a yo-yo," said Wanda Adams, a Dominion Way resident. "I'd like a definite answer. If they're going to buy my house, I want to know when and I want to know how much."

A meeting Monday afternoon at the city municipal building between Georgia Emergency Management Agency officials and several local and state officials - including Mayor Bob Young, City Administrator Randy Oliver, local EMA Director Dave Dlugolenski, planning and zoning Executive Director George Patty and state Sen. Don Cheeks - did not clear up homeowners' uncertainties about buyout potential. Officials said they were discussing possible strategies for helping flood victims countywide, not just in Commonwealth.

Nearly 20 Commonwealth residents showed up for the meeting - many visibly distraught - and expressed their exasperation about being stuck in the middle of what they describe as a political tug-of-war.

"You all talk about the whole of the county, but you all are just going to say the same thing that you said the other night, and I need an answer today," said David Thompson, a Dominion Court resident. "I need to know where to put my kids today."

At the time of the meeting, officials were unaware of the governor's announcement.

Terry Lunn, division director for GEMA, told residents the federal program that allows the state to buy flood-prone homes requires that money be distributed equitably throughout Georgia.

Initially, $5.7 million was made available by the state for long-term hazard mitigation management, said Lisa Ray, public affairs director for GEMA. About $540,000 has been earmarked for eight Richmond County residences, none of which is in Commonwealth.

An estimated $1 million to $1.5 million still is available to buy flood-damaged property statewide, Ms. Ray said.

Later Monday, the governor's spokeswoman, Joselyn Butler, confirmed the governor was making $105,000 available to GEMA for the Commonwealth residents affected by the flood and that the money's dispersal is "imminent."

State Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, who visited Commonwealth residents Monday evening, said he plans to meet with the neighborhood's flood victims again Friday afternoon to help them fill out paperwork that will allow them to receive the governor's money.

But the $800,000 buyout that Mr. Williams announced Friday is not GEMA money. It will have to come from the state budget and requires approval from the House Appropriations Committee, which will meet again this fall.

"Everyone can see they have a legitimate claim; there's not a question," Mr. Williams said.

He accused GEMA officials of being too cautious about making promises to the flood victims.

"There's not a questions as to whether they'll qualify (for the money) - anybody who can see, can see these homes are in a flood plain."

Mr. Cheeks, D-Augusta is working to secure $3.1 million from the Department of Transportation to build a retention pond for the Crane Creek drainage basin that would eliminate flooding at Interstate 20, which is adjacent to the Commonwealth subdivision.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.

Report damage

Homeowners who suffered flood damage as a result of heavy rains June 13 are asked to report damage to the Emergency Management Agency at 821-1155.