Cumberland Times-News

January 13, 2014

Flood buyout funding may come to county

Officials asking property owners for updated information

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany County is seeking a chunk of federal funding for the county’s flood buyout program and county officials are asking property owners to update their information or put their properties on the list for the first time for possible purchase.

Putting a property on the list does not bind the property owner to sell, said Amy Stonebreaker of the County’s Office of Land Development Services. “We want to update our list so that when funding becomes available, we can begin to work with property owners on possible purchases,” she said.

A number of owners on the list are known to have already sold their properties and it’s possible some eligible property owners are not on the list. If a property owner is interested in participating in the buyout program, it’s important that they get on the list or update their contact information, Stonebreaker said. About 20 properties are on the current list.

The county is taking steps to make sure Allegany County obtains some of the funds. The exact amount the county will get is uncertain.

“The Community Development Block Grant has not been allocated, we’re going to be making our application,” Stonebreaker said. There are additional funds and grants that may also be applied for in the near future as well, she said.

The funds will be distributed through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development later this month to access unspent federal funds that have been set aside for the state of Maryland to address damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. If successful, the county will use the funds to buy additional properties where a residence is located in a mapped flood plain, county officials said.

Stonebreaker has been working from the current list of properties since 2011. For a while, the lack of major flood events slowed funding for the program down. Since 1985, 250 properties have been bought out, so the number of remaining eligible properties is shrinking, said Stonebreaker.

The announcement of the grant came at last week’s Allegany County Commission business meeting at county offices on Kelly Road. Stonebreaker spoke to the Times-News on Monday.

County Administrator David Eberly said the state is expected to get $20 million in block grant funds for the flood program, but that will be divided among all of Maryland’s jurisdictions.

“The program is entirely voluntary,” said Eberly.

Funding agency guidelines will be used to prioritize acquisitions and properties added to the list are not guaranteed a buyout offer. The number of properties that may be acquired is dependent upon availability of funding, county officials said.

Stonebreaker may be contacted at 301-876-9544 or astonebreaker@allconet.org by Jan. 24. Stonebreaker said phone is the preferred method of contact.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.