Kalona seeks to lower flood risk
KALONA — New detailed flood risk mapping will allow Kalona to submit a Letter of Map Revisions to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), removing more than 50 properties from the 100-year floodplain. The action, approved by the council Monday, means those homeowners will not have to purchase mandatory flood insurance.
For more than two years, Kalona has, with the help of the University of Iowa-based Iowa Flood Center (IFC), reviewed, remapped and revised the original FEMA mapping that had more than 50 percent of the city in a floodplain. Initial remapping efforts lowered it to about 34 percent. Recent survey work that included the Salversen Creek bridges and culverts, brought a completely new map.
City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh noted, “We knew all along that we could have a better map through the hydrologic science of a detailed study.”
There is more the city can do, he said, asking the council to have Kalona join FEMA’s Community Rating System that would allow the city to decrease its flood insurance premiums via education, flood mitigation, information access and homeowner involvement. Initial insurance decrease on acceptance into the plan is 10 percent, up to a 45 percent maximum. The council approved the request.
Additionally, work on structures and ditch improvements can further lower the 100-year flood risk, and Schlabaugh said the IFC was asked to “take a comprehensive look at what structures in the city need to be undertaken to reduce our risk.” Once a plan is done, Kalona will go to the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board to ask for funding to help build the structures. There also will be grants through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help defray costs. In fact, Kalona and the other members of the English River Watershed Management Authority (ERWMA) will have a $150,000 grant Dec. 1 to start long-term planning for the 627-mile watershed from Riverside to Grinnell.
Initiated by Kalona, the ERWMA currently has 12 members and will hold its first annual meeting at the Sigourney Library Nov. 21, going from an idea to a funded organization in eight months.
“This has been a huge undertaking,” said Schlabaugh, who with city planner Jody Bailey met with all the cities and counties in the watershed, as well as with commodity and conservation groups. Kalona will serve as the ERWMA’s fiscal agent, reimbursed for its work according to the contract agreement with the DNR that provided the planning grant, but has nothing to do with the ERWMA operation. The ERWMA has its own board drawn from its membership.
In another water issue, the council learned that the interest rate for the water tower loan dropped from 3 percent to 1.75 percent, saving Kalona about $8,000 per year and nearly $50,000 over the term of the state loan ($1,676,600).
Another state loan is expected for the water/sewer project with final engineering survey work to be done by next week, Schlabaugh said, and the city-funded water valve replacement project “continues to go smoothly.”
In other business, the council:
• approved the 2012-13 annual report that had $2.4 million in revenues,a bonding capacity of $7 million and current debt of $3 million. “The city is in very good shape,” noted City Clerk Karen Christner;
• approved a fund transfer to Tax Increment Finance (TIF) of $221,004.12 and learned the Harvest Hill No. 1 subdivision TIF expires this year. Of the certified amount, $60,418.98 was applied to the low-to-moderate income housing fund;
• approved a plat survey for John Miller to allow transfer of a single lot to a son and daughter-in-law for a home building site;
• learned that the Community Center Open House, held in conjunction with the Christmas in Kalona event, is Dec. 7 and that Christmas lights will be turned on Thanksgiving Day; and
• learned that eight Community Center Committee members toured facilities in Waverly that involved partnerships between the city and schools, and that there is a committee meeting Wednesday at City Hall.