By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Pearl River County head planner Ed Pinero, Jr., on Monday asked supervisors for a letter of intent, expressing the board’s intention of participating in a Federal Emergency Management Agency buyback program for properties that have experienced repetitive flooding.
The possibility of establishing a proposed program surfaced, following extensive flooding, after Hurricane Isaac dumped record-breaking rainfall on south Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana the last week in August. In a three-day period, 24 inches of rain fell on Pearl River County, officials said. The rains caused extensive flooding, especially along West and East Hobolochitto creeks near Picayune. Some of the areas have suffered repeated flooding over decades.
The board approved the letter, and Pinero said that does not mean that Pearl River County will be accepted in the program. The final decision rests with FEMA officials, and is based on available funding, Pinero told the board of supervisors.
The letter of intent expresses to FEMA that Pearl River County wants to, and will, participate in the program if the program is made available here.
Pinero said that the program, if it takes effect here, could possibly impact as many as 25 homes. He said about six residents so far have said they want to participate in the program.
The federal buyback, said Pinero, would cover 75 percent of the transaction and the homeowner would be responsible for a 25 percent match. However, he said that usually the transfer of the deed more than covers the match. He said county funds are not involved in the transaction, and the county only acts as a “conduit” for the transaction.
Added Pinero, “When the federal government is involved, you have to turn over the property, and that is counted as an in-kind contribution to the process.”
Pinero said that one home had been flooded nine times.
He said that the property would wind up in the public domain eventually. The properties are in flood-prone areas, cannot be resold under current restrictions and would be allowed to revert back to natural space. Pinero said most of the homes were built in flood-prone areas before regulations were applied to the areas. Some homes can be constructed in flood-prone areas, but must meet elevation and other requirements.
“These homes have been in these locations for a long time,” he told the board.
In other matters, the board of supervisors:
— Approved the November minutes.
— Approved a workers’ compensation renewal that was six percent less than last year. The reduction was because fewer employees work for the county and the county got a long-term discount. Currently, the county employees about 215 persons, down from a high of 260 shortly after Katrina.
— Acknowledged a Justice Court monthly report that showed collection of delinquent fines for October totaled $29,000, one of the better monthly collection totals for this year.
— Acknowledged receipt of reimbursement checks from FEMA for $19,000 for expenses relating to Hurricane Isaac and $800,000 relating to construction of the three county storm shelters.
— Approved a request from the coroner to pay for the burial of a pauper. The dead person had no one to claim his body. Such a request usually costs the county about $400. State law requires the county to bury paupers. A pauper is one who is extremely poor and usually lives on public charity and assistance. A portion of Palestine Cemetery is set aside for paupers.
— Accepted the burial plot for the Lee Family Cemetery, a private cemetery for the James J. Lee family, who live near Poplarville. Families who have enough land can establish private family burial plots, but they must meet state and county guidelines, said county attorney Joe Montgomery. Montgomery said Lee met all the requirements. The plots also have to be submitted to, and approved by, the board of supervisors.
— Accepted county administrator Adrain Lumpkin, Jr.’s, November monthly report and said they would discuss it later.
— Approved the claims docket.
— Approved travel for three sheriff’s dept. employees to the ACA 2013 winter conference in Houston, Texas, Jan. 27-29; Sheriff David Allison to the Miss. Sheriffs’ Assoc. 2012 winter conference in Meridian Dec. 3-7; one tax assessor-collector office person to attend a special workshop for homestead applications on Dec. 19 and three to a Hattiesburg session on Dec. 20.
— Recessed to Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 9 a.m.