A near-capacity crowd expressed high interest in floodplain buyout options discussed at a Monday evening meeting held in the West Plains Civic Center Magnolia Room.
The meeting was attended by about 150 people and organized by the city of West Plains, the South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCOG) and Ozark Action to assess interest in buyouts for residents and homeowners with properties near or in the the Federal Emergency Management Agency Regulatory Floodplain.
Participants were asked to find their properties on one of five maps representing buyout zones within city limits. They were given green and red stickers and instructed to place a green sticker on the relevant map if they were interested in selling and a red sticker if they were not interested.
Participation in the meeting and in the potential buyout was and is completely voluntary, said Cody Dalton, assistant director of SCOCOG.
As the night progressed it became apparent from the number of green stickers that many residents were interested in selling or getting more information about the buyout.
“I’m glad it’s finally happening,” said Joshua Chase, owner of a house in one of the buyout zones. He said he will sell his home either way and plans to sell it on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Others are selling properties just to move on.
Ralph Walker, an 81-year-old man who has been through six heart bypass surgeries, owns two properties in the flood zones. He said owning the homes is just getting to be too much for him.
“At my age I can’t keep up with it anymore,” Walker said.
Homeowners and landlords interested in selling were told they would be given the full amount of their homes’ appraisal values and they could appeal such appraisals if they thought it necessary. If they choose to remain in the 65775 zip code, they could qualify for up to $50,000 in moving assistance, as well as a discount on a new home.
Renters are eligible for up to $7,000 in assistance.
City Building Code Official Dustin Harrison confirmed there is not enough replacement housing in West Plains, but said that should not deter people from staying.
“We want people to stay here,” Harrison said. He explained Ozark Action has programs available for housing assistance for renters and a list of contractors willing to build new houses for homeowners who apply.
“I was happy with the turnout,” said Ozark Action Housing Director Terry Sanders. “The questions were very reasonable and there was a lot of interest.”
In February 2018, the U.S. Congress set aside $18 billion for 2017 disaster relief funds, $99 million of which was allocated to the state of Missouri. The state decided to divide that money among five zip codes determined to be the most affected, 65775 being among them.
According to City Planning Director Emily Gibson, the city would be in charge of handling the money once a plan of action has been decided upon between the city, Ozark Action and SCOCOG.