Saturday, March 8, 1997
Rebuild Falmouth
or move it?

Mayor wants higher site;
others not so sure

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH, Ky. - The mayor of this devastated city said Friday he wants to build ''a new Falmouth'' at a different location, while U.S. Rep. Jim Bunning said he would pursue federal money to develop a flood-control plan.

''We need $50 million, maybe more, to rebuild,'' Falmouth Mayor Max Goldberg said Friday. ''That's to make a new Falmouth. It will have to be on higher land, maybe south of town or north of town.

''Our downtown was already hurting,'' said Mr. Goldberg, who owns a restaurant and movie theater in Falmouth. ''We've been trying to revitalize it, but this may be the lick that kills it.''

Federal disaster officials have used aid as an incentive to get flood victims to rebuild in a safer area to avoid future disasters.

But lifelong Pendleton County resident Craig Peoples, thrust into the tragedy's center this week as the new director of the county's Disaster and Emergency Services office, doesn't see the need.

''I think it should stay here,'' said Mr. Peoples, 28. ''It's Falmouth. We'll leave it here. It's home.''

Residents and business owners began returning Friday, nearly a week after the Licking River and its tributaries turned the small country town into what looks like a war zone.

''This is the worst I have ever seen in Kentucky or anywhere else,'' said Mr. Bunning, R-Southgate. A Kentucky State Police cruiser took him slowly past a house that had been torn from its foundation.

Mr. Bunning and his wife, Mary, toured Falmouth on Friday afternoon in the cruiser.

''Unbelievable,'' Mrs. Bunning continually muttered as the car passed piles of rubble that had been homes, overturned cars, gutted businesses and uprooted trees.

''It just makes you want to cry.''

For now, Mr. Bunning said residents must contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency for information on available federal money and aid, including direct subsidies, low-interest loans and other forms of assistance.

But Mr. Bunning said if people are not satisfied with FEMA, or if they can't get through, they should call his Fort Wright field office at 341-2602.

In the long term, Mr. Bunning said he wants to put together a plan for some type of flood-control project for Falmouth and other parts of Pendleton County. ''We need something so it does not happen again,'' he said, referring to floods in 1937 and 1964.

Mr. Bunning was not specific about what he will propose, though he said money could be available through the Appalachian Regional Commission or other federal sources.

Gov. Paul Patton, who returned to Falmouth on Friday, said he expects Vice President Al Gore to return to the Ohio River's edge this weekend, possibly in Louisville. Bad weather with heavy fog forced the vice president to cancel a trip to Falmouth on Wednesday.

Mr. Patton declined to say whether Falmouth should rebuild or move the Pendleton County seat to higher ground. ''It's too early to express an opinion on that,'' he said. ''The immediate challenge will be to get the town cleaned up and get people back in their homes.''

But Mr. Goldberg was adamant about what the town needs.

''We need a dam,'' the mayor said as he stood in the lobby at Pendleton County High School, which for most of the week has served as shelter, relief station and command post for National Guardsmen. ''If we had a dam, we wouldn't be having this problem today.''

Both Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Bunning noted that former Congressman Gene Snyder, a Louisville Republican whom Mr. Bunning succeeded, tried to secure federal money in the mid-1980s for a dam near Falmouth.

But the project died when the administration of former Gov. Martha Layne Collins refused to support the project. Some farmers living near the proposed dam also opposed the project.