Washington County looks to buy, demolish homes plagued by drainage issues

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 12:48 AM CST
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People living on 13 different streets in Washington County are dealing with "chronic flooding".

Many of which are a direct result of Hurricane Michael.

The county told people affected about a new plan to help them start over at a meeting Wednesday night.

Two drainage ditches on Peach Street in Chipley have caused plenty of headaches for people leaving there.

People like Steven Daniel.

“It floods on a Sunday afternoon if it sprinkles,” said Daniel. “It's just the way it is."

Daniel has been dealing with the flooding issue on Peach Street since he bought the house in 2005.

While people across the Panhandle were likely shocked by the damage, and flooding, that Hurricane Michael caused, Daniel wasn't too surprised to see a foot of water in his house.

After swimming up to his front door for two months after the storm, he decided to take his family to a new home.

"I'm paying two mortgages, you know, I pay $1500 a month in mortgages, and one of them I'm not living in," said Daniel.

He can't sell the property due to the damage and the constant risk of more flooding.

When Daniel heard Washington County was looking into a buy-out program, he thought it might be his way out of that second mortgage.

He and dozens of other Washington County homeowners with flooded property came to a public meeting where county and state officials addressed the concerns.

"If they take advantage of this program, then they are actually mitigating and no one else on that property will ever be harmed by flooding,” said Washington County Commission Grant Coordinator Karen Shaw.

The program became available to the county after The Hurricane Michael Disaster Declaration.

"The benefit for the county is that it's the county's desire to help the residents,” said Shaw. “We have a lot of residents that are still suffering."

Essentially, the county would buy the property from the homeowner for 75% of its pre-Michael appraised value.

Then, they'd demolish it.

"They've told me the ditch is a problem,” said Daniel. “I think 75% is a slap in the face. I'll take it though if it pays the house off and the property so I can get out of it."

So whether the chronic flooding was caused by Hurricane Michael or not, the property will go back to the county and it will be returned to green space, which can only become a park, community garden or cemetery.

The county will submit the buy-out applications to the state by March. The program is completely voluntary.

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