MASON CITY ñ Three full years after the devastating flood of 2008, neighbors of vacated houses may find themselves wondering why so many flood-damaged properties are still standing. Above: A neighborhood in Mason City in inundated with flood waters in June of 2008. By Joe Buttweiler.|MASON CITY ñ Three full years after the devastating flood of 2008, neighbors of vacated houses may find themselves wondering why so many flood-damaged properties are still standing.
Only about 30 of the 161 properties being acquired by the city have been razed. They were the ones damaged the most by the flood. The Winnebago River crested at more than 18.5 feet on June 8, 2008, inundating hundreds of homes and several neighborhoods of the city. Flood stage is 7 feet.
Susan Mertes, flood home buyout administrator for the Mason City Growth Development and Planning Department, said the process has been slowed by the time it took to get funding to acquire the properties, by the presence of asbestos, and by the bidding process.
“Granted the flood was three years ago, but it took a whole year before we had funding available for any of these,” she said Tuesday. For some of the properties, the city didn’t get the money until November of 2009.
About 30 homes ñ the ones most damaged by the floods ñ have been torn down, she said. They were deemed too dangerous to enter for asbestos removal. There are about 30 more homes that have been inspected for asbestos, Mertes said, but have not yet been cleared for demolition.
The 161 properties being acquired are all in the floodplain and are being removed to prevent future damage.
The city has yet to acquire 23 of the 161 because the owners are still looking for new places to live, Mertes said.
The city received roughly $10 million in federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds for 92 properties, which include two commercial properties. The city also received $8.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to buy the 69 other properties, Mertes said. That money came through the state, she said, providing money for homes that did not meet Federal Emergency Management Agency damage standards for buyout and removal.
Essentially all of the money for the buyouts, demolition and administration of the buyout program is coming from federal coffers, she said.
“Once we acquire we test for asbestos, and once any asbestos is removed we can tear it down,” Mertes said. “We need to take competitive bids for each step,” she said, which slows the process down.
The houses removed thus far were in several neighborhoods, most notably along Maryland Avenue west of North Carolina Avenue. Moving forward, the demolition will target one neighborhood at a time, Mertes said, so as to minimize disruption.
It is expected that by fall “we’ll get a big chunk of them down,” Mertes said. At the latest, all should be down by November of 2012 since the city has a three-year span to raze properties after getting the money.
Watch a video that was shot in 2008 of the flood: