BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH - For the 97 residents unfortunate enough to own the homes most severely damaged in the March flood, being unlucky might pay off.
24 communities get money
The Kentucky Hazard Mitigation Team awarded 24 communities a total of $14.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for purchasing flood-damaged property.
Falmouth received the highest federal award at $2.5 million. Shepherdsville was allotted $2.1 million, the second highest amount. Frankfort will receive $1.76 million, and Cynthiana $1.7 million.
Other communities approved for buyouts were Augusta, Butler, Carroll County, Carrollton, Cloverport, Franklin County, Harrison County, Hopkinsville, Lebanon Junction, McCracken County, McLean County, Meade County, Melbourne, Millersburg, Milton, Monterey, Paris, Warsaw, West Point and Wickliffe.
Falmouth qualifies for a $3.35 million buyout, Mike Lynch, Kentucky's mitigation officer, said Tuesday.
It's the highest amount awarded in the state, but the money will buy fewer than half the homes included in Falmouth's buyout application. If the city can come up with its share of $437,000, that money will help the city buy - at pre-flood value - the worst of the homes torn apart or swept away when the Licking River flooded the city March 1.
For the 114 homeowners with less-damaged properties, a buyout is no longer an option.
The state Tuesday announced allocations of $14.6 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buyout funds for 600 homes in 24 communities. Based on the damage estimate for the state, FEMA made $16 million available; $1.4 million is being held in reserve. Falmouth received 17 percent of the total take, the highest amount of any community in the state.
But the generosity of federal and state governments won't ease the pains of recovery.
The city's buyout application included 211 properties - a project that would have cost $8 million. Now leaders must find ways to help residents with fewer options.
"I think that I know from my personal situation that if your home is damaged, you don't want to go back in that location and are looking for an opportunity to try to get out of that property," Councilman Anthony Strong said. "Now that's not afforded to you and that would dishearten an individual."
The city also has to find a way to raise its $437,000 share needed to receive the buyout money.
Of the $3.35 million, Falmouth will get $2.5 million, or 75 percent, from the federal government and $403,000 from the state.
"We've been anticipating that we'd have to do this," Mr. Strong said. "Yes, it's good that we got that amount, but we have a lot of decisions to make."
Community Development Block Grants and other programs are being sought with the help of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District.
Other projects need city money, too: repairs to water and sewer pipes, city buildings, roads and other infrastructure.
The state awarded buyout money to those communities based on clusters of damaged homes, participation in the National Flood Insurance Program and how often the area is flooded, Mr. Lynch said. More than 50 communities applied. Each project was ranked and the highest were awarded money.
In Falmouth, many of the 97 worst homes are gone. At one time they stood in clusters on Rigg, Pendleton, West Shelby and Liberty streets.
What city officials must do now is verify the property owners still want to sell.
In some cases, owners could be in the final negotiation stages for the sale of their house in June, Mr. Lynch said. It all depends on how fast Falmouth can come up with its 13 percent share.
"In other cases, where the communities are looking for the local match, it could be awhile longer," Mr. Lynch said. "Those communities need to work on getting that match."
If any of the 97 property owners decide to rebuild after all, city officials will move down the list to the next qualified property and offer the buyout option.
Either way, the city will lose nearly 100 families, which would damage the city and county tax base and weaken the financial strength of the schools.
Pendleton County did not qualify for the buyout. Damage to the seven homes in the application couldn't beat out other municipalities.
Larry Sutton, assistant superintendent of Pendleton County Schools, said the loss of revenue will hurt, as will the loss of students. "I don't think we have really taken a hard look at what this will do to us," Mr. Sutton said.
County Judge-executive Donald Mays hopes the county can wrestle some federal grants to better its future.
"Even though some people will move out, we will still have a town and a lot of good homes here."