BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH - Swamped with trying to run a city in the midst of a major crisis, council members and city employees work non-stop, many neglecting personal duties and their own flood-damaged homes in order to serve residents.
But there are problems that some residents say could hurt the city's ability to recover.
''Look what they've done on the buyout,'' said Lisa Greene, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority. ''The council is too busy infighting about who gets the insurance money for the police station and City Hall.''
Six months later
The task of pulling out what was lost in "The Flood of '97" seemed incomprehensible for the 6,000 or so people whose lives were affected.
Six months later, they marvel at what they've accomplished.
Ms. Greene said she is upset that local leaders aren't doing more to find housing for the 86 families living in the temporary trailer park called New Hope.
Her attitude is representative of what many residents express: a feeling of frustration that leaders are moving too slowly.
City council members say they want to build enough housing to keep displaced residents within the city. But such plans take time. And for many, time is ticking.
Dickerson Street resident Sharon Gray said she knows city officials are working hard.
''I would hope that if there is something they can do to protect us, they will,'' she said.
Gary Wallace, who owns eight properties on the city's buyout list, said he, too, understands the recovery process is a lengthy one.
''I just want the city to remain positive on this,'' he said.
City council will meet Tuesday to discuss annexing property. New home construction is on the rise at the Cardinal Ridge subdivision, across U.S. 27 from New Hope.
Mayor Max Goldberg is rebuilding his downtown commercial buildings to add a sit-down restaurant and plans to reopen his movie theater.
He said buying new land for the city isn't easy or cheap. He thinks the buyout might bring more liabilities into the city than help for residents who lost their homes.
He said what Falmouth really needs is more money to fix the flood damage and give the city an extra boost.
The city qualifies for a $3.3 million federal buyout. Last month it received an additional $2.2 million for flood recovery projects. Another $40 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, Small Business Administration loans and state emergency money was approved for the town.
But only part of the money set aside for Falmouth has made its way into the hands of residents. They barrage the council and city employees with questions: Where's the buyout money? Where will people live? What will the city do to help them?
There are no easy answers. Council must wait for direction from the state on how some of the money can be accessed and dispersed.
State officials are still working with the governor's office and federal officials to iron out the rules.
All the questions from residents are taking their toll on Mr. Goldberg and city council members.
Jeff Carson, the councilman who spent 200 hours putting together the city's buyout application, said he is worn out. Answering residents' questions and complaints has left him drained and disillusioned.
Once a man who would try to answer all concerns, Mr. Carson now refers most questions to the mayor.
''I'm not in a position to make the decisions,'' he said. ''If it's a city policy question I can answer, I will, but the mayor is in charge.''
The Flood of '97
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