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City may buy homes in danger of flooding

Brookhaven officials may buy homes from some residents as ameans of addressing problems in a “prime flooding area” of thecity.

Following a meeting last week, Mayor Bob Massengill toldaldermen Tuesday that the Mississippi Emergency Management Agencyhas a grant program to buy homes in problem flood areas. The mayorsaid the Center Street and Saint George Street area had floodedtwice in the last year and nine times in the last 10 years.

“It’s an area that is badly flooding,” Massengill said.

Much of the city rainwater drains into a large ditch in thearea. It is not feasible to reroute the water, Massengill said,citing conversations with MEMA officials. Affected residents needto be moved, he said.

Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson estimated the number ofaffected homes would be fewer than 10.

Under the MEMA program, homeowners are offered the appraisedvalue of their homes, the mayor said. Some relocation funds arealso available.

The program is funded 75 percent by the state and 25 percent bylocal governments, Massengill said. Some of the city’s contributioncould be in the form of tearing down the homes in the process ofturning the drainage area into “green space” that would not be usedfor any purpose in the future.

Massengill mentioned Laurel, where eight of 13 impactedhomeowners accepted a city offer to buy their homes.

“You give the people adequate time (to accept the offer). Youdon’t rush anybody,” said Massengill, although he indicated therewould be a time limit on the offer.

Aldermen scheduled a 10 a.m. meeting Jan. 6 with MEMA officialsto discuss the buyout program.

Wilson said most of the people in the affected area are propertyowners. After the frequent flooding, she questioned whether thehomes, particularly trailers, could be moved.

“Even if you try to move them, they’ll fall apart,” she said.”The floors, seals and everything are rotten.”

Later, Wilson said the buyout program sounded like a good idea.She acknowledged other officials’ concerns about flooding acrossthe city, but said Center and Saint George streets wereparticularly bad.

“That’s an area that really needs to be taken care of,” Wilsonsaid.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Massengill said he had seenimprovement in areas where a crew, implemented a few months ago,had cleaned ditches. During the course of their work, he said, crewmembers had removed trees, refrigerators, bicycles, shopping carts,mattresses and a variety of other items from the ditches.

Mentioning one place where a plastic swimming pool had dammed upa drain, Massengill said those items had contributed to floodingproblems across the city. He said public assistance is needed intrying to keep them out of ditches.

“We need people’s help,” the mayor said.

The mayor urged people not to pile leaves too close to drainageditches. He said rainwater could cause the leaves to flow into theditch and clog drains.

A crew of four will be working during heavy rain periods to tryto keep ditches cleared. In a long-range plan, Massengill said astreet sweeper for city residential areas will be requested in nextyear’s budget.

“It will make a tremendous difference,” Massengill said.

Massengill said nobody likes to have their yards or carportsflooded, and it is a disaster when water gets into homes.

“We’re doing what we can and will continue to do so,” Massengillsaid.

City officials agreed to schedule a work session with engineerGerald Woods, who has been working with Massengill on developing aplan to alleviate flooding.

“We’ve got problems all over town,” Massengill said.

In some instances, he said, pipe sizes are now inadequatebecause of economic growth in some areas.

“The infrastructure of this city is something we need to take along, hard look at,” Massengill said.

The mayor urged the board to consider a long-range plan foraddressing problems.

“It’s going to take a lot of money to do the things that need tobe done,” Massengill said. “And it’s going to have to be done overa several-year period.”