Friday, March 28, 1997
Buyout question worries Falmouth
Residents grapple with repairs, future

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Neediest Kids of All Flood Relief Fund
FALMOUTH - Saws and hammers echoed throughout town Thursday as residents took advantage of the weather to work on rebuilding their homes.

But the real buzz around town was what to do: Vote for the buyout or wait and see whether a flood-protection program can be financed.

Over lunch, in garages, on sidewalks and at the gas station, people talked about Wednesday night's information meeting - and how they got no answers.

''No one knows what's going on,'' Stanley Courtney said as he and neighbors took a break on dusty chairs inside his garage.

''We're gonna come back. What else is there to do? I got 40 years invested here.''

As residents considered their options, local leaders met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to learn how to file applications for relocation or flood protection.

A decision will be made in about two weeks, when ballots distributed to residents are tallied. But city and county officials said they already have an idea of what will happen.

''Based on the questions people asked last night, it looks like the interest is in the buyout,'' Falmouth Councilman Jeff Carson said.

Pendleton Judge-executive Donald Mays said the fiscal court likely would vote to support the buyout within two weeks.

The county also will consider joining the National Flood Insurance Program, which Falmouth belongs to, that would help residents buy flood insurance and receive federal assistance.

Flooding caused by the Licking River on March 1 destroyed hundreds of homes and caused $36 million in damages.

Federal officials are lobbying for the buyout because it is the fastest and cheapest way for government to put residents back in homes and avoid future disasters in the same area, said Mike Lynch, FEMA hazard mitigation officer.

Local officials have until April 30 to apply for federal money to buy out flood victims. FEMA usually pays 75 percent of the cost with the state covering 13 percent and the local government 12 percent.

Communities must determine how many homeowners want to participate in the buyout and include them all in one application.

Residents are unsure whether a buyout is best for them.

''Most of the people here are old and can't afford to restart from scratch,'' said Jerry Teegarden, who lives outside of Falmouth.

Many in this lower middle-class community are learning they cannot even get a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration because they do not have the resources to pay it back.

Main Street resident Sharon Proffitt's application was denied; it will be reconsidered in six months.

''They turned me down because I have debt and mortgages,'' she said. ''Now I have six months to change my mind or hit the lottery.''