Property owners in the Riverdale flood plain may have the option to sell their property to the town of South Boston through a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program offered through Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).
Town Manager Tom Raab told council during its monthly work session on Monday the Virginia Department of Emergency Management is projected to have approximately $10 million available for hazard mitigation projects through a grant application process.
Raab made it clear the town will not use its power of eminent domain to acquire property, and the town will only acquire property from owners who voluntarily choose to sell their properties.
The town will convert acquired property to open space and permanently maintain it as such, Raab added.
The Riverdale area of South Boston flooded seven times in 2018, resulting in approximately four weeks of lost business due to flooding, according to Raab, who held a meeting with Riverdale business owners to explain the program about two weeks ago.
“Thirteen individuals representing nine businesses came,” said Raab, adding four more have approached him to express interest in the program since then.
The deadline for submitting grant applications is May 30, and Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) has until Sept. 1 to recommend to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which projects are funded.
If the grant application is approved, VDEM will provide funds to the town through the state to acquire properties damaged by flooding, so property owners can then relocate to less hazardous areas outside the floodplain.
If a property owner agrees to sell, the property’s assessed value plus 25 percent will be budgeted for acquisition, and once the grant is awarded, the town will pay for title options, Phase I environmental site assessments, property surveys and formal appraisals.
A final offer will be presented to the owner, and the town will pay all closing costs, unless the buyer wants to use his or her own attorney.
Relocation assistance options include actual moving costs and “searching” expenses for replacing property not to exceed $2,500 with documentation required and re-establishment expenses up to $25,000, with documentation by invoices required.
A business may be entitled to a fixed payment in lieu of payment for actual moving and related expenses up to $75,000 based on the average annual net earnings of the business.
Raab explained the hazard mitigation grant program, with him and Sangi Cooper of the Southside Planning District (SSPDC) listed as contacts, could be the best option for Riverdale business owners to get financial relief from flood damage.
Southside Planning District Commission will prepare the grant application and administer the project should it be awarded.
FEMA allocates $200 million each year for damage associated with natural disasters nationwide, but Riverdale business owners would have to compete with businesses across the country for those funds.
Public hearing set on proposed budget
Council set a public hearing on the proposed $10,665,703 budget for 2020 for the May 13 meeting of council.
The proposed budget reflects an increase of $104,324 over the current budget. Among those changes are funding for an additional fireman and salary increases and fringe benefits for nine fire department personnel totaling $78,184, raising that line item from $871,995 to $950,179.
The town has budgeted $33,710 for salary increases and benefits for 11 street maintenance workers with that budget item increasing from $1,731,224 to $1,764,934, and it has budgeted $23,854 for four salary increases and benefits for workers in refuse collection from $198,686 to $222,540.
The proposed budget reflects a decrease in the street cleaning line item due to the purchase of a new street sweeper.
Council considered appointments to the South Boston Industrial Development Authority, Halifax County-South Boston Transportation Safety Commission, South Boston Board of Zoning Appeals and Halifax County-South Boston Regional Library Board at Monday’s meeting.
However, council did not make any recommendations on appointments at Monday’s meeting.