‘I feel we are being railroaded’
RIVERSIDE — The Riverside City Council approved a new flood plain map Monday that will cover 15 properties that were not in the flood plain before. The council voted 4-1 to approve the amendments to the ordinance chapter on flood plains, and also voted to waive the second and third readings of the ordinance.
Councilor Ralph Schnoebelen voted against the flood plain map while the other four councilors, Bob Schneider Jr., Kevin Kiene, Nate Kasdorf and Christine Kirkwood voted in favor of it.
Jason Conn of the Iowa DNR attended the meeting to discuss the ins and outs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood plain map. The councilors asked Conn what would happen if the city did not adopt the map.
Conn said that one of the ramifications of failing to adopt the FEMA flood plain map was that Riverside residents would not be able to get federally funded flood insurance. He said that if a flood affected Riverside, very limited FEMA funds would be available to those residents in the flood plain.
Regardless of whether the city adopts the new flood plain map or not, lenders will adopt the new map and they will require property owners in the flood plain to have flood insurance. However, Conn warned that the insurance will be very expensive for those property owners if the city does not adopt the flood plain map and participate in federal flood insurance.
Lenders will begin using the new map when it goes into effect nationally on Jan. 16.
Schneider asked Conn if the map could be changed, since he did not feel it accurately represented the flood plain in town. Conn informed him that the city could hire a consulting firm to collect flood data, better data than what FEMA uses, and present that data to FEMA. FEMA would then consider altering the map to reflect the best data.
The council opened up discussion for a public hearing on the map. Riverside resident Jim Figgins was one of 15 property owners on the south side of town who would be included in the new flood plain map who were not included in the old one.
Figgins said he’s worried about his property being instantly devalued once it was placed in the flood plain. He said he did not think the flood plain maps reflected the true danger that the property owners on the south side of town faced.
“I know for a fact none of these places has flooded in the past 55 years,” he said. “I feel we’re being railroaded. We should get in touch with Kalona to find out how to change this.”
Figgins also asked why the new flood plain map was not publicized more given its important implications for the people it includes. City Administrator Rusty Rogerson said the city followed the protocol of publicizing the hearings in the appropriate venues.
Councilor Nate Kasdorf said it should have been FEMA’s responsibility to contact the homeowners individually, not the city’s.
In other news, Rogerson recommended to remove building inspector Terry Goerdt from the city’s payroll and instead to name him a consultant. Rogerson said the city loses about $2,400 a year after subtracting Goerdt’s annual salary of $3,760 from the revenue generated by building fees, which is $1,325. He said the city might want to increase its building permit fees.
Goerdt requested the city increase his hourly pay rate from $35 to $40. While the council was on the subject of a building inspector, it considered hiring Jim Pope to replace Goerdt as its inspector. Pope, who is already Kalona’s building inspector, offered to perform the inspector duties for $35 an hour.
The city is sending out requests for letters of interest from local attorneys who might wish to be the city’s attorney. The city attorney is currently Les Lamping.
The council considered a hotel/motel tax grant request from the Riverside Area Community Club (RACC) for $8,970. Most of that, $6,000, was for the fireworks show, which is put on by the Stumptown Shooters.
Kirkwood said Riverside residents greatly enjoy the fireworks show, and that last year’s show was a bit disappointing. She suggested increasing the budget for fireworks $1,000, to bring RACC’s grant request to $9,970. The council approved the change.