Property acquisition program available for flood zone residents

Property acquisition program available for flood zone residents

LAWTON, Okla._Hundreds of Lawton families whose homes were impacted by this year's flooding may be able to get financial help from the government, if they want to move out.

Some of those residents came to Lawton City Hall to hear more about FEMA's voluntary property acquisition program. The goal is to reduce the risk of future flood damage by giving people the option to sell their property to the government.

The main thing is that property owners don't have to sell their homes if they don't want to. But for some residents in the Turtle Creek and Garden Village neighborhoods, which were evacuated when the floods hit in May, this program could provide the first step out of that area before the water rises again.

Donnie Graham is no stranger when it comes to dealing with his home in Garden Village being damaged in a flood.

"There's a little drainage right behind us that's always flooded, it was above the mailbox, so we know it's going to flood," Graham said.

He is one of many who received the letter about Tuesday's meeting on a possible way of moving away from his flood prone neighborhood by applying for FEMA's Hazard Mitigation program.

Environmental specialist Cynthia Williams says the process can take up to a year and a half, and nothing can be guaranteed. After filling out the grant application, it goes through FEMA who then decides if the property is deemed flood prone and fits with the Hazard Mitigation grant program.

"FEMA is the one who has the ultimate approval," Williams explained. "Once we get approved to go forward with the grant application then we would treat it like it is any other home sale."

At that point, the city will have an appraiser come determine the value of the property. Williams says this program is another alternative for those wanting to get out of the flood water's path.

"The advantage is the peace of mind knowing they don't have to go through a flood again, and it's also a way to get that value back out of your house that you might not be able to get just selling it to someone else because it has flooded," Williams explained.

Graham says the idea of this approach is a good one. The process, he feels, is a headache, but he is keeping his hopes high.

"In today's world, nothing goes expeditiously. It takes time. It's a process, submitting paperwork, waiting to go from one office to the next, waiting to go to one level of government to the next level, but we are still holding fast being prayerful and waiting for a positive outcome," Graham said.

Graham says he is submitting the paper work for the FEMA program. Anyone else who may be interested in this can get the paperwork by emailing Cynthia Williams at cywilliams@cityof.lawton.ok.us.

The presentation from the meeting is available on the city's website. All forms need to be turned in no later than August 31.