Des Plaines officials could begin making purchase offers by the end of the month to owners of flood-prone homes as a part of a voluntary federal buyout program.
The proposed 21 buyouts would be among the first in Des Plaines history, a city where major storms since 2008 have caused the nearby Des Plaines River to overflow its banks and leave many homes under water.
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City aldermen this week inked deals with two state agencies responsible for oversight of the flood buyout program, paving the way for the city to receive $7.8 million in state and federal funds to pay for the properties.
With the funds, city officials plan to make formal purchase offers to the 21 homeowners, who ultimately make the final decision whether to sell. The city will demolish the homes it buys and leave behind open space.
Fourteen of the homes are on Big Bend Drive -- a block bordered by the river on three sides -- and five are on nearby streets, including Sherwood Road, Hawthorne Lane and Hawthorne Terrace.
One home is on Campbell Avenue near the Historic Methodist CampGround, and another is on Bellaire Avenue, located east of the Tri-State Tollway.
"I think anyone, whenever there's flooding, they always look at Big Bend first," said First Ward Alderman Patricia Haugeberg, whose ward includes the Big Bend subdivision. "It's a gorgeous area, and my heart really goes out to these people who have lived on Big Bend.
"There have been comments by different individuals in local publications that say, 'Well, it's their problem -- they moved there,'" Haugeberg said at the city council meeting Monday. "(But) these homes were built in the '60s prior to all of the flooding occurring, prior to all of the building north of Des Plaines."
Of the total project cost, 75 percent of the money is coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and 25 percent from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which is providing a required local match under the FEMA buyout program.
Des Plaines will receive nearly $3.6 million upfront, then $4.2 million once buyouts have begun taking place. City officials are responsible for administering the program, which includes making offers, demolishing homes and maintaining the properties as open space.
Offers will be based on fair market value appraisals of the homes conducted in August 2010, officials said.
Jon Duddles, Des Plaines' assistant director of public works and engineering, said after offers have been made and accepted, the city will go to bid for a contractor to demolish the structures.
The Des Plaines buyouts have been a long time coming, since city officials put in an application for funds after the river flooded in September 2008. It was only after a presidential disaster declaration was issued after floods in the summer of 2010 that money became available. Residents deemed to be in a "repetitive loss area" found out they were eligible for buyouts in early 2013, and they began signing up after that.
About 100 other property owners are on a waiting list to see if their homes will be bought out, but the city's second grant application requesting funds is still under preliminary review by federal and state agencies.
Duddles said the city is now working to refine the application based on questions from federal and state officials. It's possible funding could be awarded this fall.