Essex County hopes to finalize flood buyouts

ELIZABETHTOWN – Essex County officials hope that by the end of the year they’ll finalize buying out properties that were damaged in Tropical Storm Irene.

County Community Resources Director Mike Mascarenas told supervisors at a committee meeting Monday that the county is getting closer to closing on the 40 or so properties.

The county will hold a public informational meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Jay Community Center in AuSable Forks to update everyone on the process, he said.

“We want people to know what they need to expect within the next couple of months, and that we’re trying to do everything in our power to close them out by year’s end,” Mascarenas said.

He said the meeting will involve giving general information, plus there will likely be opportunities for property owners being bought out to ask questions about their case.

“It’s such an individual process, it’s hard to give answers sometimes as a whole once you get to this stage,” Mascarenas said.

Jay town Supervisor Randy Douglas noted that the public is invited to the meeting, not just property owners who are working to get buyouts.

Douglas said the process is complicated. Some families don’t have their taxes up to date, and others haven’t submitted all the information they need to Mascarenas, he said. If they don’t do that, they won’t be able to proceed, he said.

“It’s crunch time now,” Douglas said.

Deed restrictions and liens on properties will also involve more work than properties with clean deeds, he said.

“It’s a complicated, complicated process,” Douglas said.

Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee asked about the timeline for closing. He said there’s a resident in his town who expects a buyout but doesn’t want to rent a place to live and pay months of rent that aren’t needed.

Mascarenas said his office can be flexible. He said in some situations, the case will dictate how quickly the process will go. If the property has a clean title, it would likely be done first. But if someone wants to have their buyout finalized last, Mascarenas said they should be able to work with those people.

“I know we’ve waited over two years, and it’s been frustrating for everyone, including myself,” Mascarenas said.

Douglas said some homeowners may be even more frustrated by what they are offered. If a family got more insurance money than their house is appraised for, they won’t get any more money from the buyout, since the government figures it made that family whole already. He said there are a few families in the area in that situation.

“It’s a frustrating process,” Douglas said.

Mascarenas said it may help those people to submit receipts that prove that the family used their own money to fix their homes after the storm. That total would be added to the appraisal figure to come up with an offer price, he said.

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or