DeKalb gets $900K to buy flood-prone homes

DeKALB – The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday that it released $868,521 to the city of DeKalb to buy properties in the floodplain.

The city received pre-disaster mitigation grant funds, which can be used for the acquisition and removal of up to six structures repeatedly damaged by floods, according to a written statement from FEMA. The area will become permanent open space.

Through the grant, FEMA will pay 75 percent of the project costs, with the remaining 25 percent of the cost being the city's share. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency requested and administered the grant.

Mayor Kris Povlsen said the one-time grant is part of a long-range buyout plan developed by a stormwater task force. That plan was adopted by the city council in 2008, and earlier this year, the city bought and demolished the first four homes using a different funding source, a Community Development Block Grant.

Those homes were all on the north side of Lions Park. Other areas targeted for acquisition are homes on Fairmont Drive, Sunnymeade Trail, Clifford Drive, Tilton Park Drive, Joanne Lane and John Street, according to the task force plan.

Of the homes identified for acquisition, about a dozen in all, all homeowners are willing sellers, Povlsen said.

Besides preventing future flood damages to homes, the acquisition helps reduce emergency repair costs and the financial obligations of federal, state and local governments, according to FEMA.

Also, homeowners of flood-prone properties are able to sell at a fair price, FEMA spokeswoman Laurie Smith-Kuypers said.

"They're able to sell the home at market value," she said. "They're getting a good deal on their home then."

The grant the city of DeKalb received is similar to a grant that DeKalb County is seeking to acquire Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park, which sits on land just outside of Sycamore, near the Kishwaukee River, and has been repeatedly flooded.

DeKalb County applied for FEMA's hazard mitigation grant program after 2007 flooding. Unlike the pre-disaster program, that grant program works with local communities post-disaster, Smith-Kuypers explained.

The county's application is still being processed, an IEMA spokeswoman said Friday.

While the state agency has approved the application, it has not submitted the project to its federal counterpart yet.

"One thing being worked on right now before being submitted to FEMA is how the local match part of it will be taken care of," IEMA communications manager Patti Thompson said.

Like the grant DeKalb received, the county would pay 25 percent of acquisition and demolition costs, with the federal government covering 75 percent of costs.