Debbie Rolen Staff
August 30, 2013
The situation on Pine Street began March 15, 2012, when Logan was hit by a flood, and the edge of the road slid. The slide was not repaired and has continued to deteriorate over the past year while solutions drown in a sea of red tape, restrictions exceptions and paperwork.
Five houses are above the area of the road which was destroyed. The residents of one home are Debbie Lee and her husband, who are both disabled; another is home to a disabled woman; the third house is home to a couple who work every day and the fourth house belongs to a man who has been given the use of a four wheeler by the city. The fifth house is unoccupied.
On May 10, 2012, the City of Logan submitted a project worksheet to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The damaged facility named in the worksheet was Pine Street and the total estimate to complete repairs was $863,961.32.
On May 22, 2012, The Logan City Council met and Sherry Hardway of FEMA reviewed a proposal for the City of Logan to do an “alternative project” and buy the houses beyond the slide at Pine Street. According to Hardway, the city would get 90 percent of the $871,661.32 to buy the homes, demolish, closing and if any monies were left over, the town would be authorized to “pick a project” to complete full repairs or a split between demolition and paving. The council approved Hardway’s proposal.
In August of 2012, homeowners of the five properties had their property appraised. The homeowners each signed a notorized statement dated October 12, 2012, they would accept the amount of the appraisals for their homes.
A meeting was held April 2, 2013, when the Acting State Public Assistance Office and the Acting State Hazard Mitigation Officer told the City of Logan Public Assistance funds cannot be used to acquire property. Only mitigation funds can be used to acquire private real property.
Hazard Mitigation Project Officer Brian Penix was the one to break the news and say it was up to FEMA to grant the exception. Penix mentioned upcoming funding sources with dates of October and December 2013 that may be a possibility if FEMA says no.
The City of Logan wrote to Pennix on May 13, 2013. The letter signed by Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti was requesting special consideration on an alternate project, which would include buying out the five homeowners, closing the street completely and using the remainder of the funds for projects valuable to the City of Logan. To date, there has been no answer to the letter.
On June 10, 2013, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office also wrote a letter to Gene Gruber, Division Director, FIM Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Region III. In the letter, the governor is asking for clarification for the City of Logan and an exception to a project started under the Public Assistance program and denied under the guidelines for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The exemption requested is to allow the City of Logan to assert the cost of repairing the road and stabilizing the hill slope as a benefit to meet the HMGP benefit/cost analysis requirements.
The estimated cost to acquire the five structures is $330,550. The cost to repair the road was estimated at $847,661 and the cost to stabilize the hillside has not been officially estimated, but unofficial estimates range from one to five million dollars.
Meanwhile, the road has continued to deteriorate and has now been closed to traffic. The residents were told a safe place would be found to park their cars and they would be helped with getting back and forth to their homes. Most of the residents aren’t able to walk the distance they need to walk. In addition to the worry about emergency situations that may arise where fire trucks and ambulances couldn’t reach the residents, the Lees are concerned about their 10-year-old home, whose block foundation is cracking and falling in as the hillside continues to slide.
One of the homeowners, Ray Hensley, was provided a side-by-side four wheeler to drive residents back and forth to their homes and bring their trash for pick up, which is not working well due to his not being home most of the time because of his own obligations.
Lee was told by Mayor Serafino Nolletti to call the police or fire department (who also have a side-by-side four-wheeler) and they would be there for them 24/7.
“We have done everything that FEMA has asked us to and the city has done everything they were asked to do. We are just very concerned about all of our safety,” said Lee.
Mayor Noletti said he asked Hensley to keep a log sheet to document his use of the four wheeler. A property owner granted permission for the residents to park on his property at the bottom of the hill.
“This has gone all the way up to the number two man at FEMA in Washington and we are waiting for someone to make a decision,” Nolletti went on to say, “I hope nothing happens before we can get this situation resolved. I know the people up there feel trapped. We are doing everything we can to make it less inconvenient for them.”