Hancock buy-out is back on track

Hancock County

Hancock County’s on-again, off-again “limited buy-out” program to help frequently-flooded homeowners is apparently back on again.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham on Monday brought a team of his top staff members to the Hancock County Board of Supervisors to assure the board it has MEMA’s full support.
“I’m making sure you understand that anything I can do to facilitate and expedite things, I will do that,” Latham told supervisors. “I don’t want any perception we were yanking the rug out from under you.”
He was referring to MEMA’s request in February to de-obligated $6 million of the $10 million previously earmarked for property acquisition in response to home-owners’ needs after Hurricane Katrina.
However, the money had been dormant since 2008 because, as District 4 Supervisor Steve Seymour said at the time, “there’s so many different game plans, people are jockeying back and forth for money,” that the program has not yet moved forward.
MEMA staff said last month that it was not “due diligence” on their part to let those funds remain idyll while other communities are suffering.
Latham said Monday that his staff still believes $4 million should be sufficient to cover the properties the county needs to acquire, but added, that’s just an estimate.
“If we get to the point where you need more,” he said, “you can probably get it.”
“So basically you’re saying, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s going to be okay,'” District 1 Supervisor David Yarborough said. “Yes, sir,” Latham said.
The board approved a request from engineer Ben Benvenutti of CDM to begin advertising for appraisers and an attorney for the project.

By Geoff Belcher

The Sea Coast Echo

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