LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A historic flood. A devastated neighborhood.
Homeowners say the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District promised aid, but hasn't delivered. Documents also reveal that MSD told property owners disaster relief was coming a lot sooner than it has.
John Monroe, Sr. won't forget August 4, 2009.
"My basement was full of water," Monroe said.
That was the day flash floods turned his street into a river. At the time the people who live in the California neighborhood along Maple Street had seen it all before. Residents said it was the second or third time that year the area experienced severe flash flooding. Now, neighbors are angry about delays in buyout money to help people in the flood prone area.
"I can't look for nothing, I can't fix this one no more," Monroe said. "I'm in limbo."
Monroe is in limbo because $9.75 million in disaster relief acquired by MSD has been bogged down in red tape. That FEMA aid was set aside to buy out the owners of 128 of the most flood prone homes on and around Maple Street, allowing neighbors to move out and move on. But it was up to MSD to distribute the buyout money.
"It just hasn't happened," said Matt Holbrook, who owns two rental properties on Maple.
Holbrook had a decision to make after the 2009 flood. Fix up his rental homes or just board them up and wait for the MSD buyout. Holbrook decided not to rehab for a renter after he got a letter from then executive director Bud Schardein which said "the overall process of applying for and receiving responses from FEMA and Kentucky is estimated to take approximately one year." Holbrook took that to mean help was on the way.
"We are still waiting," Holbrook now says. "Three and a half years later we're still waiting."
Waiting and worrying. Holbrook said he's now $100,000 in the hole when he adds the mortgage payments, taxes and lost rent.
MSD spokesman Steve Tedder said it was FEMA, not MSD, moving slower than expected reviewing the 2,000 page buyout grant, which was finally approved in January 2012, two and a half years after the flood. But it took another five months for MSD to get Kentucky Emergency Management to sign off on the contract which was required before MSD's attorneys could start working on home appraisals and title searches.
In the meantime MSD missed another timeline, this one for the initial meetings with property owners, leaving homeowners like Monroe wondering if the buyout was ever coming.
"If they're going to buy it buy it," Monroe said. "If they're not, then they should tell me they've changed their minds."
Tedder said the process is finally ready to take the next step with the first buyout offers set to be mailed out in late February. Tedder said MSD is trying to take care of families in the most dire financial situations first including some home owners whose properties have fallen into foreclosure while they wait for their water rescue.
But Tedder said MSD moved the process along as fast as it could.
"This is our project," Tedder said. "We want it to move forward. We want it to be successful. We want to help these people."
Tedder doesn't think MSD is going to miss any more deadlines although they expect some property owners will want to negotiate on price so those buyouts take longer to finalize. The offers will be based on the value of the home before the flood and before the real estate market dropped, which is typically anywhere from $20,000 to $90,000 per home.
The buyouts are voluntary so if owners don't like the offer they don't have to take it.