Flooded House Acquisition Criteria Need Another Look

From the Stormwater Task Force Minutes, October 23, 2008, which were finally received and filed by City Council July 13, 2009 (see pp. 49-51).

Jeff Birtell suggested a comprehensive review of all flood damaged properties be considered by the City in a complete neighborhood buyout approach. The Committee wanted to prioritize to City Council a shorter list affordable for buyouts with expected limited dollars.

After [Sue Guio’s] presentation and a lengthy discussion by committee, it was recommended that Council’s decision should be based on the life safety hazard issues when deciding what properties to purchase for buyouts. It was further recommended that the following properties be considered for buyouts based on having the highest benefit to cost ratio determined by FEMA; 814 Taylor, 829, 901, 909 Colby Court and 807 Dawn Court. However, Fairmont properties with high benefit cost ratios were suggested to be deferred at this time until future funding becomes available. These 5 priority properties for buyout consideration have serious life safety issues from river flooding and documented FEMA claims for lower living area damage.

A motion was made by Chairman Conboy to recommend Council consider these life safety issue properties as a priority for buyout with CDBG funds. Dawn Mirman seconded the motion. Motion carried by all except Dave Pauling and Elizabeth Hagen Moeller whom [sic] abstained due to both their properties lying within the buyout area.

Are there a lot of Birtells in DeKalb? Because according to the voter registration rolls from last fall, at least five Birtells lived at 909 Colby Court. Also coincidentally, a Jeff Birtell appears in some Council meeting minutes as an I&T tech for the City of DeKalb.

What happened at the February 23, 2009 Council meeting (p. 60) is that four properties were approved for buyout — all but the Dawn property. Halen Hildebrandt, of 808 W. Taylor, commented on the selections:

Mr. [Hildebrandt]…stated the three houses on Colby are not the lowest nor the closest to the river. The house on Taylor is one of the highest properties on the block, and his house is lower. He stated neither his home nor 814 Taylor have had water in the living room, but another house has. He stated there are a number of houses on Dawn that are lower than those on Taylor. He asked Council

1) what criteria was used in selecting these houses,
2) why was there no communication from the City, and
3) are there any plans to buy the rest of the homes.

Acting Mayor Povlsen asked Ms. Guio to respond to Mr. Hildebrandt’s questions. Ms. Guio responded the staff used the expertise of the Storm Water Task Force. She stated the four properties tonight have a rear entrance that receives flood water; the other ten homes have water coming through window wells, etc. There was a cost to benefit ratio for properties that were submitted for a grant from FEMA. The four properties tonight had a ratio of either the highest (5.8 range) or were over the 2.0 range. [Emphases added.]

I guess we need to see the ratios for all these properties.

As kind of an aside, the July 13 approval of the October meeting minutes is really weird. You woulda thunk they’d have been read and approved before the buyout of these properties was approved. It was more difficult to find out who lived where, once the City of DeKalb paid the June installment on the property taxes.

4 thoughts on “Flooded House Acquisition Criteria Need Another Look”

  1. More meeting minutes: April 2008, included in June 2008 agenda backup and May 2008, included in the November 2008 backup.

    I will not for one minute dispute that any of the Colby Court properties listed were in bad shape, whether inhabited by a city employee or not. In fact, the biggest question in my mind is why the Taylor Street residence was selected over the Dawn Street home and this cannot be ascertained by reading the minutes I’ve been able to dig up so far.

    But of course you have to know that the “word on the street” is all about the city’s having taken care of one of its own. The lack of communication is partly to blame — the neighbors of these properties were not notified, it was revealed at the February meeting — and the lack of transparency in the selection process is the other part.

    Sometimes appearances are important.

    The mayor, rather defensively as is his wont, declared that anyone who wanted to know more about the process could come in and study it. I respectfully submit that he should have gone a step further, and released a report to the community that spells it out.

    He could still do that, and, if he truly does care about the city’s building a relationship of trust with the community, he will.

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