LUMBERTON — City Planning Director Brandon Love on Monday presented an update on flood mitigation options to a crowd that included several residents still trying to recover from Hurricane Matthew’s fury.
Love came to the podium during the public comment portion of the Lumberton City Council meeting at the request of Councilman John Cantey Jr. Love was asked to provide a comprehensive outline of current mitigation efforts and to dispel any myths about the process.
“They just want to know when they’re coming home,” Cantey said about the concerned homeowners in attendance, many of whom were still seeking funding to repair property damage caused by the flood.
Love made a presentation similar to one he made during February’s council meeting, presenting three different options for flood mitigation. He gave the council members an update on the rate of participation in each option and how much funding each could offer.
The first option Love discussed involved applying for money through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. Love said the agency is focused on funding properties outside of the region’s 100-year floodplain, a stipulation that disqualifies major neighborhoods in West and South Lumberton from receiving assistance.
Love said two homes in the city currently are being rehabilitated with financing from the agency, which provides funding for a maximum of three properties at once. The agency provided $150,000 to repair every group of three, and Love said the city will identify more homes to participate in the program as funding becomes available.
Love also spoke about the Community Development Block Grant program, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said funding from that program comes through the state, rather than the county or the city.
All applicants for the program will be screened, and Love said about 660 applicants from Robeson County are set to go through that process.
The final option Love discussed was the Hazard Mitigation Grant program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Three options are provided through the program. The first is a buyout of the property in question; the second involves elevating the property to a less vulnerable height; and the third is demolishing and rebuilding the property.
Love said more than 400 applications have been received for the program. Of those, 106 have been pre-approved.
He noted several requirements that affect which individuals qualify for the respective programs. The Community Development Block Grant program, for example, only accepts individuals with low to moderate incomes. FEMA’s hazard mitigation program is not income sensitive.
Councilman Chris Howard Jr. said the city’s elderly population was among the most affected by delayed mitigation funds because they did not have access to stable housing and resources in the meantime.
“This is baffling to them,” Howard said.
Howard also said city officials need to be more transparent with their constituents about how long they anticipate having to wait for funding.
Love said everyone applying for mitigation assistance should make sure their contact information is updated with their respective liaisons. He also said elderly residents should give power of attorney to someone they trust in case they need help making a decision about housing.
In other business, the council:
— Approved the purchase of two vehicles: an Altec bucket truck priced at $113,402 to be used by the Electric Utilities Department; and a 2010 Ford Ranger priced at $12,587 for the Water Department.
— Approved the installation of a stop light at Seventh and Linwood streets at a cost of about $25,000. A total of 36 accidents were reported at that intersection during the past five years.
— Approved an engineering contract with Lumberton engineering firm Koonce and Noble to oversee phase one of the construction of a riverwalk along the Lumber River in downtown Lumberton.
— Approved a $1,800 contract with the Lumber River Council of Governments to update the city’s charter.
— Adopted a resolution honoring Sgt. Shawn Byrd, who passed away April 3. Byrd served for 16 years with the Lumberton Police Department and also was known for his work as a volunteer in the community.
— Presented a posthumous Distinguished Service Award on behalf of Precinct 4 Community Watch to the late Eddie Powell, a member of the city’s Public Safety Commission who was killed in an accident in May 2017. His mother, Sherrill Powell, accepted the award on his behalf.
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected]