Frustrated Homeowners Beg For Town’S Help

Payson has spent $44,000 and 18 months but still can’t get federal bureaucrats to change flood maps for subdivision

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You got your geological time — with rock layers built up over a great drift of eons.

Then you got your bureaucratic time — which amounts to just about the same thing.

Just ask the homeowners in the Trailwood subdivision, who have been trying for the past 18 month to talk the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into making a couple of changes on floodplain maps — which would have the effect of dramatically reducing their homeowners’ insurance premiums.

The homeowners went to the Payson Town Council more than a year ago, pleading for help.

Last week, Jim Garner was back. “It’s 18 months since we started trying to resolve the flood insurance issue, and it looks like it’s going to go on, and on, and on,” he said. “It seems like there’s always one more piece of information they need from the town of Payson. So I’m begging you, on behalf of those homeowners.”

The problem actually dates back to the failure of the builder of the subdivision to file maps showing the drainage improvements he completed in the course of building the homes. FEMA maintains maps showing floodplains throughout the country. Homeowners who build in an area subject to flooding must pay much higher home insurance rates. However, the improvements the builder made would have allegedly removed the homes from the floodplain by diverting water to an existing drainage.

However, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans quickly countered that the town had already spent $44,000 drawing up new maps and submitting them to FEMA.

“So then they ask a question and we answer the question and they wait 90 days and ask another question. And we answer the question, which they phrase in such an open-ended way that you really can’t answer exactly what they want. Then they wait another 90 days,” said Evans.

Evans noted that even Sen. John McCain’s office had made inquiries on behalf of the homeowners.

He assured Garner that the town staff will push the issue along as best they can, but that it depends mostly on FEMA, the federal agency in charge of responding to disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

“I’m not sure what the seven of us can do that a senior sitting senator can’t do,” concluded Evans. “It’s not that we’re not responding.”

Still, Evans said he would mention the issue again to McCain, since they were both slated to join with Sen. Jon Kyl, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Friday at a press event designed to boost support for a massive, multi-billion-dollar copper mine near Globe.

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