Hancock Co. leaders scramble to save buyout money - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hancock Co. leaders scramble to save buyout money

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HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Hancock County supervisors are scrambling to come up with a strategy to keep $6 million in state money.

As we first reported Sunday, MEMA has asked the county to forfeit six of the $10 million allocated for the voluntary property buyout program for flood prone areas.

During Hurricane Katrina, Lorri Gibson's Pearlington home went completely underwater. Then, just a year later during Gustav, she saw four feet of water inside her home. For Gibson, cleaning up the mess is getting old.

"We just can't rebuild and keep rebuilding," Gibson said. "Financially, it's scary. You can only go so long, keep changing sheet rock every so often."

Gibson said she's been on the list for the buyout program going on three years now, and she still hasn't seen an offer. 

"About eight, nine months ago, I got a letter saying an adjuster would show up. No adjuster ever showed up. Nobody has heard from the buyout in a year, year and a half."

County leaders hired an outside firm to administer the buyout program in 2008, and they admit there have been significant delays.

"This is a long a tedious process," Hancock County Tax Assessor Jimmy Ladner said. "I understand the frustration of the residents of that area."

Ladner said the first thing that had to be determined was how many homes and which homes were qualified for the buyout.

"I can't get into the nuts and bolts as to why it's taken this long because, candidly, I don't know," Ladner explained. "But the residents of that community, the residents of southwest Hancock County, Pearlington, Lakeshore, Ansley, Clermont Harbor should not be penalized because, for some reason, it's taken longer than it should have."

MEMA Spokesman Jeff Rent told WLOX news there are a lot of other programs that need to be funded through the Hazard Mitigation Program. And said once the county determines exactly what it needs, it could reapply for more grant money.

In today's economy, county leaders doubt that would ever happen.

"If this money is lost, the chances of us realistically getting it back are slim," said Ladner.

County leaders hope to arrange a meeting with MEMA to let them know how important it is to keep all of the funding in place.

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