PARKERSBURG -Wood County has been awarded a $27,000 Office of Homeland Security grant to be used to purchase a weather station at the 911 center to be used for hazardous weather alerts.
The weather station project is part of a program that ultimately could save Wood County residents money on flood insurance.
Ed Hupp, Wood County Emergency Management director, told the county commissioners Thursday there were grant funds at the state level from 2009, and when he was notified of the availability of funding he had only a short turnaround time to apply.
"We applied for $50,000. We have received $27,000. We plan to use the funds to do a weather station at the 911 center. Then we can do a hazardous weather plan and if we can meet all the required classifications, it could mean a 15-20 percent savings for residents on their flood insurance," Hupp said.
In the meantime, the county applied for a Citizens Corp Program grant for funding for the weather station project. County grant coordinator Toni Tiano said they hope to hear regarding the status of that pending grant application sometime in May.
Officials said if that grant is awarded, a budget revision could be done for the $27,000, and Hupp said some or all those funds could be used to assist the sheriff's department in converting to the newly required narrowband radio system.
In Other Business...
In other business, representatives of the Downtown Task Force toured the former holding center on Second Street, considering the facility as a possible future site for the Farmers' Market.
The outdoor Farmers' Market has been held under the tent next to the Blennerhassett Hotel, and an indoor winter market was held inside the West Virginia University facilities under renovation downtown.
Commissioner Steve Gainer, who is the commission liaison to the task force, said the group expressed interest in touring the old jail. The holding center has since been moved out into the new justice center.
"They were interested in looking it over so we arranged a tour. But, when they learned how much the utility bills are a month and saw the very large size, I think they felt probably it wasn't going to be a good fit," Gainer said.
"We will be able to use that system to piggyback with the fire departments. We have 11 sites in the county with equipment, with repeaters to tie them all together. This would eliminate outside other frequency interference. The regulations require everyone to go to the narrow band. Some of the equipment here is 30-40 years old," Hupp said. "Radio systems are changing now almost as fast as computers, and they are becoming more affordable."
Under federal regulations, flood insurance is required for property owners who have secured loans from lending institutions for property located in designated flood zones, which Hupp noted include not just rivers, but small streams as well. Hupp also serves the county as floodplain program coordinator.
"We do have a lot of smaller streams in the county that flood as well and they are also included, and the banks are really cracking down on this regulation," Hupp said.
Recent changes in new floodplain maps provided to the county show a lowering of the base floodplain elevation from 610 feet to 609 feet here, which Hupp said may change some property owners' designation. Hupp said hundreds of pages of the maps are being reviewed now and public hearings will probably be scheduled sometime next spring.
"It sounds like there may be some significant help coming from the grant. If you complete the program, people should be able to save some money on their flood insurance," said Commissioner Wayne Dunn.
Until the late 1960s most property owners were not able to get insurance coverage against flood damage. Private insurance firms were unwilling to assume the financial risk alone. In 1968, Congress addressed the issue by creating the National Flood Insurance Program. This federal program provides flood insurance at a lower cost in exchange for management of flood-prone areas by local communities. The NFIP insures more than 4 million policyholders in more than 19,000 communities. The program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
According to FEMA, there is a 26 percent chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage compared to a 4 percent chance of fire, and between 20 and 25 percent of flood insurance claims comes from a medium or low flood-risk area.