City wants to buy flooded properties

Jason Ferguson
The City of Custer is pursuing a grant to help it purchase two pieces of property within its floodplain along French Creek that would be razed and turned into green space.
At the Dec. 2 meeting of the Custer City Council, city planning administrator Tim Hartmann informed the council of grant opportunities through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, also through FEMA. Through these grants, money could be obtained to pay 75 percent of the cost to acquire the property, with the city to paying the remaining 25 percent. The grants are under the federal government’s Disaster Relief Act.
Hartmann said the properties that would be purchased are at 105 S. 8th St. and 105 S. 11th St., both of which were damaged by the Aug. 2 flood and are well within the floodplain along French Creek.
Total project cost would be around $212,814, of which the city would pay around $53,000. Owners of the properties paid for having their properties appraised and have indicated a willingness to accept 75 percent of the appraised value, Hartmann said.
If the grant is received and the purchase completed, once the houses are removed and the ground reclaimed, it would be deed restricted land that would become city property.
Timing is key, Hartmann said. By applying before Dec. 13, the city has a chance at both of the grant program’s funding. The council unanimously approved filing an application for the grants.
In other news from the Dec. 2 meeting, the council:
• Approved purchasing two city vehicles for next year, having already budgeted for the vehicles at $30,000 each. One is a half-ton pickup with four-wheel drive and the other a three-quarter ton pickup that is also four-wheel drive. The trucks are being purchased at a discount off of state bid and will replace 10-year-old pickups, which is when the city typically replaces vehicles in its fleet.
City public works director Bob Morrison told the council if the trucks were ordered now they would arrive in the new year.
• Learned from Morrison that the public works staff is working on sign replacement and maintenance, and that he has been cleaning up his office and making notes about things he does on an annual basis that others in the department may not know about. Morrison is set to retire early next year.
Morrison expressed appreciation for Custer having “dodged a bullet” with the major winter storm that hit the Hills Thanksgiving weekend, but for the most part missed Custer.
“We were prepared for something major,” he said.
• Heard from Mayor Corbin Herman, who said a meeting with a state and KLJ Engineering representative about possible grant money for phase one of the Harbach Park project went well. There are 18 applicants for the grant money, but only Custer applied from West River.
Herman cautioned it won’t be a quick process in learning about the grant funding, with the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021 a likely target date.
• Approved a $67,500 supplemental budget that includes $40,000 for tax increment finance district payments, $2,500 for recreation, $2,000 for professional fees and $20,000 for professional fees for the sewer fund.

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