COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The flood of October 2015 is still shaping Columbia neighborhoods.
In the aftermath of the flood, the city applied for and earned a FEMA grant that will pay for the local government to buy damaged properties and demolish them.
The $6.6 million grant mandates that the properties will remain vacant permanently, to help mitigate future floods.
Columbia Budget and Program Management Director Missy Caughman said the city underwent an application process for interested homeowners and established a list of 22 properties (21 residential, and one commercial).
“They either had experience with already, flooding in prior events or some kind of nuisance flooding,” she said.
As of this publication, only one property remains standing- 3408 Keenan Drive.
Caughman said it’s expected to be demolished by the end of the year after environmental work is done on-site.
She said the properties are now (or will become) “green spaces” where the city will maintain grass and other vegetation on site.
The city will own the property, but they will not be for public access like a park.
John Thorne lives on Burwell Lane next to one of the green spaces. He said he approves of the project, but there are issues.
“There are no ‘no trespassing’ signs or anything posted out there, so people just come down that lot. It’s gotten to be less of a problem since the back has grown up so much, during the winter,” he said.
“But once that thing really gets cut down and maintained nice, people like to go back there and play. That’s good, except they’re in my backyard (laughs).”
Barbara Stanley lives next to the Keenan Drive property and said her family is still negotiating with FEMA about repairs.
She said she and her husband wanted her home to be bought by the city, but the issue fell through the cracks.
“It was difficult really to get in touch with anyone, from my understanding with him. That he would call different people and nobody, seemed, and they were so bombarded, they didn’t really respond to us,” she said.
Caughman said she is not sure what happened with the Stanley’s situation, but the flood did present issues.
“There’s an opportunity and a gap there that often comes into play, whenever you’re dealing with a population. We haven’t had a disaster that resulted in FEMA coming on-site in a while, and it was an eye-opening experience for almost any individual who had to work with FEMA or an insurance company,” she said.
Caughman said the city has used almost $3.6 million of the grant funds. She said unused funds will be returned to FEMA.