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County on track with flood buyouts

Essex County Board of Supervisors

Essex County Board of Supervisors Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— The last real estate closings for Essex County’s flood buyout program should be done by the end of the week, county attorney Daniel Manning told county lawmakers Monday, March 3.

“We’re doing four to five closings a day now and have 90 percent of them completed.”

The county has approval for 28 federal buyouts of homes damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, 19 of which are in the town of Jay.

Three are awaiting state approval, Manning said.

FEMA will reimburse the county for 75 percent of the costs of the buyout program. The buyout requires a 25 percent non-federal share, a cost that the state said they will eventually cover.

The total project comes with a price tag of $5.5 million; about $3 million of that will come from a previously-approved bond issue that will be fully repaid when FEMA comes through with their reimbursements.

Payments have started trickling in, said Community Resources director Mike Mascarenas.

Manning said some of those with damaged homes are still living in them because they can’t afford to move until they get their buyout checks.

“One or two people may want to stay in their water-damaged homes after we close because they don’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “We don’t want to put them through further hardship.”

He said the county will give them 30 days after closing to move out, which should be enough time to find new housing.

“They can stay there provided they pay all charges and provide liability insurance.”

FEMA mandates teardown of a structure within 90 days of the sale closing. Afterwards, the plots can only be used for open-space purposes like parks, athletic fields or open-faced gazebos.

The county has historically transferred the properties back to the towns. The time frame for returning these particular parcels is unknown and hinges upon reimbursement from FEMA.

Local contractors are expected to bid for the demolition, removal and clean-up rights. Two or three will need asbestos removal, Manning told lawmakers.

Op-Tech has won the bid for that process, offering a total average cost of $8,059 per property. 

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