County faces hard choices with homes

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 3, 2015

Several homes across the county remain abandoned or damaged from the flooding resulting from Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

There are currently seven properties—five in Picayune and two outside the city limits, which are considered a repetitive flood loss, said Adrain Lumpkin, county administrator. After the flood damaged the homes, there were conversations between city and county officials to enter into a hazard mitigation grant agreement to assist affected residents, but nothing has resulted from it yet.

Lumpkin said he recently spoke with officials at MEMA and the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District to learn about the options the county has under the mitigation plan.

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He plans to discuss those options with the board during their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday at 9 a.m. inside the court facilities in Poplarville.

Greg Flynn, MEMA’s public information officer, gave insight about how the hazard mitigation process works, if the county decides to utilize the grant and buy out the flood-prone properties.

“Cities or counties can apply for an acquisition grant where they can then buy out repetitive flood areas so they won’t flood again,” Flynn said.

The primary goal of the Hazard Mitigation Plan is “to recognize natural and man-made hazards affecting the citizens of the county and to define activities that can be implemented by the county to mitigate the affects of those hazards for the present and into the future,” according to the county’s website.

Flynn said it’s up to city or county officials and the homeowners involved on whether or not they want to proceed with the buyout process.

“The goal is to get these people out of high risk flood areas. For cities and counties, a lot of times they have to consider that they may lose residents because they may move out of the city or county, so it becomes that fine line on whether or not residents are interested and what elected officials want to do,” Flynn said.

County leaders still don’t know the best way to get rid of all the homes.

“We’ve been awarded the hazard mitigation grant, but it requires the county to pay around $300,000 to buy these properties and the board is hesitant about that,” Lumpkin said in an earlier interview.

Kenneth Cashion has lived on Tennyson Cove in Picayune since the 1970s. He said before Isaac, the neighborhood was stable but afterwards, many of the damaged homes became unsellable.

While Cashion’s home received little to no damage, the flooding damaged many of his neighbors’ homes.

“Once the houses flooded, no one wanted to buy them so the owners I guess started renting them out,” Cashion said. “If you can’t sell a house because it’s in a flood zone, it needs to be torn down and turned into a green space.”