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Funds approved to fight flood maps

The Town Board agreed Monday to spend another $12,000 to fight the placement of private properties in flood hazard zones.

At the recommendation of engineer Timothy Walck of Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers, the expenditure was approved to pay for additional engineering work needed to examine the new flood plain maps proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA released maps in September that placed additional properties throughout Niagara County, including 900 in Wheatfield, in flood hazard areas. But through protests and the assistance of state and federal representatives, more than 60 percent of the additions have been removed, and new maps were issued.

"We have to be very aggressive," Supervisor Timothy E. Demler said. "There are about 387 homes left. We're not giving up. We believe our data is correct."

Nearly 400 residents appeared last week at a FEMA informational meeting in the community center to discuss the proposals.

Once a final flood map, which is based on land elevations, is approved later this year, those properties in high risk zones with mortgages will be required to carry additional flood insurance. Cost estimates have ranged from $800 to $1,100 a year.

The approved spending brings the engineering expenditure to $24,000 so far on the project.

Demler said it's worth it.

"I've criticized Wendel's billings in the past, but $30,000 is about what one home[owner] would pay over 20 years [for extra insurance]," he said. "It's not pocket change."

Walck noted that the engineers would review the new FEMA maps to make sure they are accurate and include all information presented by residents.

All protests and appeals must be filed within 90 days from next week, according to information distributed by FEMA at a recent meeting.

Demler, who has called the insurance practice a "money grab" to pay for FEMA projects such as the Hurricane Katrina cleanup, said it is a calculated move to collect money rather than protect homes and properties.

"It's a federal government scam on the residents of this area," the supervisor said.

He asked Walck to collect data on another 400 properties in the Bergholz area, and on River and Shawnee roads, to have them removed from the map, too.

Demler has enlisted the help of State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, to bring FEMA to the bargaining table. Also called in were representatives for Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence.

In two other votes, the board approved more payments to Wendel Duchscherer, including $10,000 for a modification of the storm-water management plan that has to be completed by June, and $10,000 to put parts of the water and sewer infrastructures into the geographic information system software program, Walck said.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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