On Tuesday, the Neosho City Council met via video conferencing for the first and only time they will meet in April. For the present time, the council agreed that they would meet once each month for the duration of the #COVID-19 pandemic, on the first Tuesday. Normally, they meet on the first and third Tuesday but the city charter calls for a minimum of one meeting per month.
Council members turned down a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Missouri Department of Economic Development in the amount of $5,386,728. There was no vote - the measure died for lack of a motion. The reason is that the grant that would have funded the proposed flood buyout plan fell far short of what was anticipated. The city had hoped to receive closer to $40 million dollars that would have allowed them to purchase a substantial number of properties.
The plan had been to use the money to do a large scale buyout of local properties affected by flooding in April 2017 as well as some areas affected by flooding last summer.
In a survey conducted by the city, 147 out of 205 residents who responded favored the buyout.
City officials were working with the Harry S. Truman Council and Catholic Charities of Southwest Missouri so that citizens could make application. The intake process was scheduled to have begun this month and the time line for completion of the buyout would have been in a 1-2 year range.
"The more I look at it, it's not going to accomplish what we wanted and it's not going to help the citizens out there," Mayor Pro Temp Carmin Allen said during discussion. "It's not going to solve the problem."
Council Jon Stephens agreed. "I don't see how it's going to help," he stated. "It won't solve our problems - it will just make it worse."
Seven flood zones were established by the city but the smaller grant money would not allow the city to buy all the properties - only selected homes or businesses in scattered areas. If the buyout plan had gone forward, properties purchased could not have any structures rebuilt on site but would have been required to become wetlands, open green space, or park land or flood plain. The
Approximately $58 million was available in Missouri for other communities that included Van Buren, West Plains, and Doniphan as well as Neosho. The city was notified last month that Neosho would receive the largest share of the funding.
The council plans to pursue other possibilities for a flood plain buyout or flood mitigation, possibly through a different CBDG grant or through FEMA.
"We were wanting something that would help everyone," Allen said.
On a related note, the council members voted to approve the Hazardous Mitigation Plan, which was previously approved in 2004, 2011 and 2016. It is revisited every five years.