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Mazomanie to buy damaged houses

8 homeowners will receive offers from the village


January 31, 2019

The village board of Mazomanie received many questions concerning the proposal by the village board to buyout flood damaged properties along the Black Earth creek floodway. At the meeting on Jan. 22 at 6:00 p.m., the board conducted its regular business as well as hearing the voices of the community.

In an update on progress being made on flood damage, exclusive of the buyout, the village is working on two reports for FEMA officials. In both reports, they are working on the public assistance side right now, creating all the reports of the data that FEMA is requesting. The deadline for the report is two months after the meeting held with FEMA last week, but village employees are hoping to have it done in six weeks. These reports are being drafted in order to coordinate reimbursement of $200,000 of expenses the village spent in the aftermath of the flood.

Village board President Gary Harrop prefaced the discussion about potential acquisition of property in the floodway for the flood mitigation plan by saying that the village hired a flood consultant late last year. “The consultant has been working with communities in Wisconsin for the last forty years, especially in the area of FEMA funding and funding assistance to these village. In conjunction with the village’s engineer from Town and Country Engineering of Middleton, we asked our village engineer and our FEMA consultant to present to the board a plan for the buyout properties within the floodway in the village. That would create a path of least resistance once structures were torn down so that water would flow along that path and mitigate property damage to structures on either side of that water way.

“One of the first things the consultant said was ‘You as a board have an obligation to purchase only a minimum number of properties, so that you maintain the tax base in the community as best you can and preserve the users of utilities services, water, sewer, and electric, so don’t get hog wild with buying properties. You’re buying properties to mitigate future flood damage.’” Harrop continued, “Essentially, what we’re dealing with tonight is a buyout of eight proposed properties, and not a bailout. So I know there’s going to be some disappointed people here tonight. We’re not buying every flood damaged home in the community. We’re going to make an offer to purchase eight properties is what our consultant and village engineer said we should purchase to mitigate future flooding.”

Village Administrator Peter Huebner distributed handouts with a map of houses which will be recommended for the buyout. Harrop said, “The buyout will make initial application with FEMA in March. Sometime in September FEMA will get back to us with funding. Funding will not come in from FEMA for a year.

“The list of properties, starting at the corner of Kramer and Hudson, are the Craig Booth property, Van Horn property, the Hook property, and the Olsen property. The big area behind those properties is in the flood plain, and there are no properties there as of now. [The others are the] Patsy Hendren house, Droster house, Peterson house, and Nagel house. These people will be notified via letter if the board approves this, they have no obligation to sell, they have a choice. If they choose not to sell to the village, there are two alternates listed, they are the Tice and Frank Wolf property. This is the typical path the floodwaters follow. I asked the question of our village engineer, are we looking at ditches to further force waters down there. Buying out these homes is the first step and see how it works, but eventually we may build ditches, but this is the first step.”

“A letter has been prepared by the engineer and the consultant, which will be sent out if it is approved by the board,” Harrop reported.

The alternate list was questioned by trustee Natalie Beil. She questioned the wisdom of purchasing some houses but not others with more damage, or ones which are right in the floodway. “Does it make sense to say one property can elevate but cause additional damage to other properties? [The] Tices [property] is not in the floodway, but their outbuilding is,” Beil said. She suggested there should be others added to the alternates list.

Harrop responded, “Using some reasonable estimates, 87.5 percent of the costs of the buyout will be borne by the federal and state government, and 12.5 will be a cost to the village. If we were dealing with a million dollars in buyout, the village would have an expense of about $125,000. The village does not have a lot of capacity for additional borrowing right now. We’re going to take a hit come this year in our assessed valuation because of all of the damage that’s been done in the northeast portion of the village, and we’re budgeting to have our village assessor come in to take another look at the value on these properties. We’re already going to take a hit on it. As a village we are going to be paying a fair amount of money for quite some years to recover from this.”

One member of the community voiced her opinion about the buyout, saying “The village is offering to buy houses in which people are actually living in and not houses which are abandoned, assuming they will not need to be bought. The village hasn’t made an offer for houses which have been abandoned the owners. Our house (damaged by the flood) looks great from the outside, but it is uninhabitable because we were told by a FEMA engineer it was unstable to be in. We took the insurance check and paid off the house with insurance money, thinking I was doing a good thing.”

Some other homeowners said they have a house at the same elevation as other properties which are on the list and wondered why they will not be bought out like other people are. They claimed the flood maps have always been wrong, not accurately reflecting the flood risk or historical pattern of flooding in that region. Residents expressed a lack of confidence in the validity of the flood plain map used by FEMA.

There was criticism aimed at the village concerning homeowners who elevate their property by several feet. When the village lets homeowners raise their properties, the village should have water irrigation plans. One resident noted that when a homeowner raises their property by three or four feet, it raises it above the flood waters, but diverts the water into other neighbor’s house.

Public Works Director Mark Geisler said, “I’m kind of surprised that you had an engineer on this committee who would look at this map, and if he did any fieldwork, just walking the neighborhoods, he would realize that some of that map is faulty. For instance, our property there, according to the map, is in the floodway, just to the west of us, in the street, it shows it’s in the flood fringe, which means the street is higher than our property, which obviously is not true. And same thing with looking at our property versus the Nogel property, the Nogel house is in the flood fringe, our house is in the floodway. Our house is higher than the Nogel house, and you can see that every time its flooded, up until this last flood, they’ve been walking in their kitchen in water and we have had water only pooling around the house. I think making decisions on a faulty map is not the best thing to do.”

“We’ve been looking out for the best interest of these people since the beginning, let’s keep doing it,” Beil said. “There are houses which are not on the list which are right next to listed houses. Is there a way for those being put on a list of appeal?”

“The village cannot protect all residents from damage incurred in the flood which happened last August,” Geisler said. “The flood gauge at Black Earth indicates the main flow of the creek is 30-50 cubic feet per second on average, and is 1100-1200 cfs during heavy rains, but that during the last flood the flow was 3300 cfs, ten times the normal flow. Sandbagging can save some houses, taking a tremendous amount of labor, but this time sandbagging was fruitless.”

The board discussed adding more addresses to the list, but Harrop stipulated that these addresses would have to be vetted by the flood consultant and the village engineer.

Beil said, “I’m not comfortable in approving the list if additional alternates aren’t added to the list.” She moved to add certain addresses to the top list of alternatives. Beil amended her motion to added that it be passed by the consultants and engineer. The motion carried unanimously.

In addition, Geisler asked to have engineers produce a map where the water goes, rather than where the current map says where it goes.

In other business, the board heard comment about the Compliance Maintenance Annual Report, a report about the sewer utility required by the DNR every year, demonstrating what was done with ordinances, budgetary management, and maintenance. It is expected that the grade on it would be an A. The board approved the report.

In the Deputy in Charge report, Dane County Sheriff Deputy Josh LaFevre reported that there was lower call volume than last month, but more citations. He also informed the board about the success of the Northwest Dane Cares Coalition (NWDCC) training held at the Cross Plains Fire Department to provide Narcan training for 35 community members. The NWDCC organization is really growing and is a benefit to the community helping to alleviate the opioid epidemic. Next month Deputy Keller will be training with Officer LaFevre, and then soon will be taking over for the second shift.

In the Dane-Iowa Waste Water Commission report, Harrop reported that they met on the Jan. 17 where there were two main items of discussion, the first concerning the debt coming off the books in May and June and what is going to be done with the money that has been allocated to pay off the debt. Dane-Iowa wants to build up some capitol in reserves, but at the same point they don’t want to have an excessive amount, that they want to give back to the communities they serve. The commission is in the beginning stages to determine what is a good amount of funds to have on hand as opposed to too much. The second item of discussion was that Arena Cheese is looking into discharging into the system. The commission was asked by the village of Arena to see how much it would cost to conduct an engineering study to find out how much of a significant industrial discharger they would be, and what kind of connection fees they would have. So the commission has received that study from the engineer, and are waiting on the village of Arena to request any changes. Dane-Iowa will bill the village of Arena, and then the village decides what they want to do. More than likely they will charge Arena Cheese for the costs of the study.

Harrop updated the board on the EMS committee, with the biggest issue with the EMS being that they have an older ambulance now, and they seem to have a lot of repairs. The new one doesn’t come until June. They are on track to have the projected amount of money available in the fund when the new ambulance arrives, so they are keeping their fingers crossed that we’ve paid that last of four to six thousand dollars in repairs.

Peter Huebner reported on actions taken about property ordinance violations. He explained that they are still working with one property owner on a vehicle which is in violation of village ordinances, and that they are working with a company to pick it up. There have been a few citations issued in the past month, but they didn’t have to tow one vehicle they thought they would have to.

Operator’s licenses for Lori Jo Sorenson and Carol Lynn Kroll were granted.


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