A plan to buy out 45 flood-damaged homes along the Missouri River in Iske Park and Elbow Bend is now in the hands of the Bellevue City Council.
The Sarpy County Board agreed Tuesday to join with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Bellevue on the $3 million purchase plan.
The board agreed 4-1 on a resolution to participate as long as FEMA pays 75 percent of the costs and the county's contribution is capped at $250,000.
Marlin Petermann of the Papio-Missouri River NRD told the commissioners that his agency would have "no problem" writing them into the agreement.
"I think this was a good step today for Sarpy County," Petermann said after the meeting. "This is also a good step toward providing for those residents of the county whose homes have been devastated by the flood."
The FEMA share of the buyout would come to $2.25 million, with the NRD, Bellevue and the county splitting the other 25 percent, about $250,000 each.
Board chairman Tom Richards said he feels strongly that Bellevue be part of the buyout because the city has annexed many of the properties that the program would seek to buy.
"If we approve this, it would be subject to the participation of Bellevue," Richards said. "That would have to be clear."
The Bellevue City Council on Monday tabled a decision on the agreement until its Nov. 28 meeting.
Council member Carol Blood said she had some of the same "language concerns" that the County Board addressed, but finding the money to participate in the program is the city's main concern.
"We are trying to do more with less and we don't have the money in our current budget for this (project)," Blood said.
"For me, personally, I want to help because we are talking about somebody's home."
Petermann said the buyout offers would be extended to an estimated 15 homes in Elbow Bend and 30 residences in Iske Park just south of Offutt Air Force Base.
About 25 of the home owners have indicated they would be open to discussing a buyout and the others have until Friday to submit a letter of interest.
If Bellevue agrees to join the NRD and Sarpy County in a buyout, an application must be submitted to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency by Dec. 9. The state must then submit an application for the FEMA funds by Jan. 11.
Steve Braech, who owns a home in Iske Park, said he feels frustrated by Bellevue's building codes as he tries to make repairs. Many of the homes have already been condemned, Braech said, and the owners are feeling squeezed.
"The (buyout) money would have to be the right price becaue we have put a lot of money into cleanup already," Braech said. "What we really want is for the city to leave us alone and let us repair what the flood did to us."
Petermann said a buyout makes sense because the recurring flooding problem is costly to government agencies that must continually provide assistance.
"There is, of course, the possibility of developing the property for public access, but really the best thing is to just return the land to nature," Petermann said. "It could replace some of the wetland lost when the river channel changed."
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