P.J. Recovery At Forefront Of Flood Meeting

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

Temporary FEMA housing trailers, levee repairs, the possibility of “buy-outs” for homeowners and the future of Pacific Junction were among the topics discussed at a long-term recovery town hall meeting April 24 for flood-impacted citizens. The meeting at the Glenwood Resource Center attracted an audience of about 200 people.

Rachel Reis, executive director of the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce, said a realistic timeline for the Pacific Junction area to recover and rebuild from this year’s historic flooding event would be a minimum of 2-4 years. The community’s recovery and rebuild will be determined by several factors, of course, most notably the number of residents who decide to stay and repair the damage to their homes.

Many flood-displaced residents in and around Pacific Junction are exploring their options and are undecided about their future. According to results of an informal survey conducted last week with Pacific Junction residents, about 50 percent are undecided about their plans, 40 percent say they’re staying and 10 percent plan to leave.

Those in attendance at the meeting were told Mills County Emergency Management is looking into bringing “FEMA trailers” to Mills County. The trailers are often brought into communities after a disaster to provide housing for displaced residents.

Glenwood Community School District Superintendent Devin Embray said Mills County’s flood resource team is committed to helping facilitate a recovery.

“We want to rebuild P.J.,” he said. “We want to rebuild the unincorporated area, the incorporated area. We want to keep everybody here, family-wise, kid-wise, community-wise.”

Some members of the audience had questions about possible “buy-outs” of flooded property by governmental agencies.
Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management representative Terry Brown said buyouts involve voluntary participation “by all sides” – property owners and local government agencies, such as the City of Pacific Junction or Mills County. Typically, Brown said, the federal government kicks in 75 percent of the buy-out cost, the local governing body contributes 15 percent and the state provides the remaining 10 percent. The purpose of a buy-out is to remove structures from areas that could flood in the future.

The purchase price for a buy-out is determined by pre-flood market value and the property being purchased will become a permanent green space, meaning a new structure could not be built on the property in the future.

Representatives from Mills County Emergency Management, the GRC Flood Relief Center, Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were also in attendance at the meeting to answer questions.