Ark. Town put on Federal Notice Over Flood-Plain Management

January 9, 2007

The city of Malvern, Ark., could face costly consequences if it doesn’t address concerns the Federal Emergency Management Agency has with how the city manages flood-plain property.

FEMA has put the city on notice and set a March 6 deadline to correct violations the federal agency says the city has made regarding flood-plain management.

If corrections aren’t made, FEMA plans to put the city on probation with the National Flood Insurance Program. That could mean property owners seeking flood insurance coverage would have to pay an extra $50 surcharge, the agency said.

Ultimately, the city could be suspended from the insurance program. And if that happens, agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration and the Small Business Administration would be prohibited from making loans, grants or guarantees for the purchase or construction of buildings in the flood-prone areas.

The city would have to be on probation for six months before it could be suspended.

Mayor Stephen Northcutt was not available for comment Jan. 7. No one answered a telephone listed in his name.

David Passey, a FEMA spokesman at Denton, Texas, says the agency originally visited the city in May 2005 and the following month sent a report identifying several violations or program deficiencies.

During the assessment, agency inspectors found that buildings in the flood plain were not permitted or lacked elevation certificates. Such certificates show that buildings are built to a proper elevation to safeguard them in the event of a 100-year flood _ a flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring. If the buildings were not built to code, they would need to be retrofitted.

In September 2005, the city was given an extension to correct the problems. But the specialist assigned to the case was sent to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which pushed the Malvern matter back further.

In November 2006, Malvern city officials were told they had 120 days before the city would be placed on probation, Passey said.

Under the program, communities develop flood maps that identify flood-prone areas and are used to manage development, Passey said.

“Any time you have unmanaged or poorly managed development you have risk,” Passey said.

While the program is technically voluntary, those who are in flood-prone areas who are not enrolled in it cannot get flood insurance.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

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