BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WILLIAMSTOWN - Flood insurance could have been Mary and Pat Howard's salvation - it would have paid them money for their home and personal belongings destroyed by March flooding.
But the Howards don't have flood insurance. And they found they couldn't buy it after a tributary of Eagle Creek moved their split-level 25 feet off its foundation.
Grant County doesn't participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, making the Howards, who lived on Lawrenceville Road, ineligible for the program.
They say that's all the reason they need to change things. They are petitioning the Grant Fiscal Court to enroll in the program.
''If anyone thinks that being required to buy flood insurance or having to build to federal specifications in a flood area is too much, they should come down to my house and see what happened,'' said Mrs. Howard, 45.
House is in piles
What visitors will see is an empty lot; a foundation without a home resting atop it. The Howards' house is in piles now, bulldozed Monday with help from the Bethany Baptist Church.
The structure was condemned; moved and tossed so radically by flood waters that when the tributary receded the Howards found their car in their kitchen.
They live in a trailer now, 9 miles south of where their home was. Mrs. Howard said it's too far from her job with the Internal Revenue Service in Covington. The couple had hoped the county would apply for a buyout, paying the Howards a fair market value for the home they shared with three dogs, four cats and two of their five children for seven years.
But as their home was being torn down Monday, the fiscal court deadlocked, failing to pass a motion to apply for federal assistance to buy the Howards' home and property. Judge-executive Shirley Howard did not want to set a precedent.
''Monetary concerns were a part of it,'' Judge Howard said. ''And the court would have had to purchase the land and take it out of use for farming or other things.''
U.S. pays 75 percent
Judge Howard and Magistrate William Hutchison voted against applying for a buyout. Magistrates Darrell Link and Richard Austin voted for the motion.
Mr. Link said he supported the motion because there was ''really no cost to the county. No risk.'' When a buyout occurs, the federal government pays 75 percent of the cost, the state 12 percent and the local government 13 percent.
The fiscal court will consider joining the flood insurance program.
''If we join this program, folks can be responsible for themselves,'' Mr. Link said. ''It puts the ownership of that issue back to the person and removes government out of it.''
The Howards say flood insurance would help other residents in the future. ''Who knows when this could happen again?'' Mrs. Howard said.
For now, the Howards are doing the best they can. They plan to give some of their pets away to make it easier to find suitable rental property.
They also are in contact with their mortgage company, trying to work out a way to handle their monthly payments.