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FEMA forum on flood policy is frustrating

A flood of complaints was voiced Thursday over the format of a forum to discuss flood insurance requirements for Buffalo residents and others living near or along waterways across the region.

Frustration bubbled up as about 250 residents flowed into the Cheektowaga Central High School cafeteria for a forum held by Federal Emergency Management Agency to let them review the revised preliminary federal flood zone designations.

"This meeting is a fiasco," said Peg Overdorf of the Valley Community Association. "This is typical of how FEMA works."

Overdorf and others were critical of how the meeting was set up as those attending waded through school halls with other people attending a basketball game. They then were forced from the school auditorium to the school cafeteria, which Overdorf said lacked adequate seating.

FEMA has redrawn flood zone maps for the city, which was supposed to result in about a 90 percent reduction in the amount of territory where the property owners would be required to carry flood insurance. Previously, 2,700 property owners in South Buffalo and Kaisertown had to buy flood insurance that often cost upwards of $800 a year.

Buffalo Common Council President David A. Franczyk said the forum should have been held in the city, because by his reckoning, that was where most of the people who attended were coming from.

Mary Colvin, chief community mitigation representative for FEMA, and a couple of representatives for the contractors hired by FEMA were present to answer questions. They developed the maps and will be working on corrections or changes.

"If we could have had another two or three people from our staff and a couple from the state DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation], we could have talked to more people with greater focus and more quickly, but we're pleased to hear the comments and will take these into consideration as we set up a strategy for future events like this. We're not saying it was perfect by any means," Colvin said.


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