08/08/18 — Disaster relief inches closer

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Disaster relief inches closer

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 8, 2018 5:50 AM

Renner Petty Sr. of Dudley had one wish for his 74th birthday Tuesday night -- resolution to the nearly two years of uncertainty that have passed since his Dudley home was flooded by Hurricane Matthew.

Petty wasn't by himself in seeking closure Tuesday night, as close to 100 people attended an informational meeting for property owners whose property was flooded during Hurricane Matthew and who have been approved for the federal buyout program.

Wayne County has been awarded nearly $9 million in federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program disaster aid to buy out the properties flooded during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

The state, which administers the federal program, approved 84 properties for the program -- 22 of which are in Seven Springs.

The county has signed the grant agreement with the state that allows the county to move forward with the buyout process.

Once the structures are removed, the sites will be left open as green space in perpetuity.

David Harris, whose company RSM Harris Associates Inc. is managing the grant program for the county, sought to assure those in the audience that for the first time, they control the process.

It is up to the property owners to decide how fast the process will now proceed, and closings and even some buyouts could happen by the end of the year, he said.

As residents signed in at the meeting held at the Maxwell Center, they were given a packet of personalized information about the program.

It included a sheet for contact information that is not due until Aug. 31.

Several completed and turned in the paperwork before the meeting ended.

Harris told those in the audience that they have up to another year and a half to submit the necessary receipts for any of their costs resulting from the disaster.

The information handouts will be mailed to homeowners who were unable to attend the meeting.

Also, an individual meeting will be scheduled with them at a later date.

Harris also explained how the process would determine duplication of benefits and how those benefits could affect what they receive in the buyout.

The next goal, Harris said, is to hire several attorneys, surveyors and appraisers.

They will be divided into teams in order to expedite the process of making offers on a property, he said.

"It has been a long road coming on us and getting things together, and I am glad it is coming to fruition now," said Petty, who was at the meeting with his wife of 50 years, Estelle.

"I am hoping that we will be satisfied and everything will go well with what we are doing.

"I am here today. It has been a hardship on me and my wife. Both of us have disabilities and we are going through lots of things and we are older."

Petty said he can't make anything happen like he used to when he was younger.

Petty said he is hoping it will work out so he and his wife will be somewhat satisfied with what happens and the process won't put them through any more hardships.

They had been staying at a hotel, but it was costing $300 week, so he returned home and made the repairs to the home he had helped build in 1973.

He has been working to clear debris from a nearby ditch that flooded his property.

Petty said he had removed trees and even appliances from the ditch.

The Pettys said they are ready to act, but that they want to determine what the alternates are before making a final decision on whether to accept the buyout.

'We are not giving a definitive answer now because we don't know," he said.

"Once we get all of the details together and everything together and find out what is going to happen, then we will know what decision we will make at that time."

Hurricane Matthew caused an estimated $4.8 billion in damage to North Carolina, damaging nearly 100,000 homes.

Wayne County applied for $35 million in disaster aid. It was awarded approximately $9 million.

The $35 million was for 331 applications that included 24 for elevation, none of which were accepted, and 307 for acquisition of which only 84 were accepted.

N.C. Emergency Management announced in July that the federal funding had been awarded -- nearly two years after the flooding left parts of Wayne County under water.