Last updated: February 19. 2013 3:15PM - 1015 Views

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The owners of 163 Luzerne County properties substantially damaged in September 2011 flooding should receive buyout offers by January, a county official said.

The purchase offers will be mailed as soon as all required documents are completed for the properties in West Pittston, Shickshinny and six townships – Exeter, Jenkins, Conyngham, Plains, Nescopeck and Hunlock -- said county Flood Protection Authority Executive Director Jim Brozena.

The purchases and demolition will total $14.36 million, he said.

The properties were appraised, and title searches are in the works, he said.

The buyout is for substantially damaged structures that lost at least half of their value due to September flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide 75 percent of the funding. The state agreed to kick in 22 percent, and the remaining 3 percent match will be covered by part of a $15.7 million federal allocation to the county to help repair damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, Brozena said.

Appraisals are based on pre-flood property values, and owners are free to accept or reject offers, he said.

New regulations in effect

Brozena cautioned property owners they must comply with tougher newly adopted building regulations – including structure elevation requirements – if they stay put and rebuild in the future.

Municipalities recently adopted the regulations for properties in high-risk flood zones as part of revised federal flood maps that take effect today.

The county will quickly proceed with purchase closings and demolition, Brozena said.

He said three municipalities also are seeking buyouts for several properties on their own – Plymouth Township, Nanticoke and Nescopeck.

Plymouth Township Supervisor Gale Conrad said seven or eight township properties substantially damaged in September 2011 are expected to be approved for buyouts.

The township is in the process of closing on up to seven more buyouts initiated before the 2011 flooding, Conrad said. She doesn't expect all seven property owners to participate because at least one already has remodeled and opted to stay.

The township isn't permitted to substitute another property for buyout if someone backs out, she said.

Another 29 township properties were selected for an additional round of buyouts stemming from 2011 flooding, though it's unclear if funding will be available for structures that were not substantially damaged, she said.

The township properties up for buyouts have flooded several times since the 1990s, she said.

That's why we're hoping so desperately that they all get approved, because the flooding is so repetitive, Conrad said.

More than half of the 67 pending buyout properties in Jenkins Township were not reoccupied after September 2011, said township Supervisor Stanley Rovinski.

Some haggling involved

Rovinski said he knows of one property owner in the buyout who will likely stay but believes most will accept. Some have already relocated.

Whenever money is involved, there's always a lot of haggling, he said. I'm hoping for their own sake they get out of there because it's going to flood again.

Plains Township Fire Capt. Charles Krommes said residents have returned to about a dozen of the 27 properties up for buyout in the township. At least two have moved out of the area, and he has no idea how many will take advantage of buyouts.

It will all depend on that offer. If the offer is not right for them, they'll tell them to take a walk, Krommes said.

Budget meetings scheduled

Monday's Luzerne County special meeting and public budget hearing will be held at 5:45 p.m. at the county's West Side Annex at the Wyoming Valley Airport off Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort.

A second public budget meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at the same location.

Email copy charge

in effect

Luzerne County will now charge a 25-cent-a-page copy charge for emails sought through public information requests, officials said

The county previously released emails on a computer disc at no charge.

County Solicitor Vito DeLuca said other counties release emails as paper documents because they can't be altered and confidential information may be redacted.

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