The Federal Emergency Management Agency apparently is rethinking its acceptance of the town's flood plain map of the Bergholtz area.
Engineer Tim Walck of Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers told the Town Board on Monday a FEMA representative has denied he accepted the map at a meeting earlier this month. The map, developed by Walck's firm, removed a significant number of residential properties from flood hazard areas.
Walck said numerous town officials, as well as representatives from the offices of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence, who attended the March 3 meeting, agreed that they heard Paul Weberg of FEMA say his agency would accept the flood elevation levels.
Walck reported that Weberg has since explained, "Well, we didn't mean that." He said FEMA's latest position is to "work with the town's model, not accept it as is."
Acceptance of the map represented an important victory for the town in its appeal of FEMA's proposed new maps. Last year, FEMA unveiled maps that put hundreds of homes in flood plain areas. Those homeowners would each have to buy extra flood insurance at about $1,000 every year as a result.
The town contended FEMA used flawed figures and enlisted the help of local federal representatives to fight the agency.
Walck said he was disappointed the win was "not a slam dunk," as he originally reported, but he said he would continue to try to keep a good relationship with Weberg. However, he noted the town is looking at future legal recourse in case the changes involve more than some "small tweaks."
He said the process should take about two months and the new maps would appear in September. He expects to set a meeting with residents in May.
In other action, the board agreed to join the effort to win a "Google Fibers for Communities" project that would bring a fiber-optic Internet system to the area. Councilman Larry Helwig, who heads Niagara County's Data Processing Department, noted that the Internet system would be "100 times faster" than what computer users now use and would be competitively priced.