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State, Federal Grants Could Help Two Alachua County Neighborhoods That Flooded During Irma

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Flooding is a major concern in both Robin Lane and the Hills of Santa Fe, especially during hurricane season.

When Hurricance Irma made landfall in 2017, many residents living in these subdivisions were held hostage in their homes by rising waters. County Engineer Ramone Gavarrete says to solve the flooding problem, the road would have to be raised. Two grants are available to help make this possible: one from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and the other from St. Johns Water Management District.

Gavarrete said it is possible for the county to get both.

“Based on the number FEMA has allocated to Alachua County, and if we are successful? Yeah,” he said, “we could cover both.”

There is about $5.4 million available to Alachua County from these grants. The main issue is the grants would not be confirmed until early 2019 and the money would not start flowing until much later. Nevertheless, county commissioner Ken Cornell said Alachua County deserves a share of the funding.

“We should get our share. We should get our fair share, and I feel good about that,” Cornell said.

Citizens lined up at the podiums when the commissioners called for public comment. Many neighbors from the areas in question expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation, including one who called the commissioners culpable.

County commissioner Mike Byerly said the county’s knowledge that the flooding would be a problem doesn’t make it responsible to fix it.

“I respectfully disagree,” he said. “We’re supposed to look out for the county’s taxes — everyone’s taxes — and so it’s important to determine if the county did something wrong and if the county needs to be responsible.”

Commissioners turned down the idea of a special assessment — or tax — and are instead looking in the direction of alternative permanent easements. These would compensate homeowners for allowing their neighbors to use their property as a way out of the subdivisions in the event of major flooding.

About Lauren Reynolds

Lauren is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by emailing news@wuft.org or calling 352-392-6397.

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