Mills County Begins Completing Buy-outs Of Flooded Properties

Mills County is on its way to completing the buy-out process of homes in unincorporated areas of the county ravaged by the 2019 Missouri River Flood.

“We started the first of our buy-outs last week,” Mills County Auditor Carol Robertson said during a Nov. 6 interview. “We did turn five of them.”

The buy-out process has been a long and tedious process for both property owners and county officials, Robertson conceded.

“One of the guys that we did their buy-out said it’s been 17 months, but it’s done,” she said. “Which is actually good because more people were fearful of this being a three-year thing.”

Robertson said more than 50 rural properties have been approved for a buy-out and the county hopes to complete five or six each week over the next few months.

“We feel like we’ve been pushing them through just as fast as we can,” she said.

Funding for the buy-outs comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program. The federal dollars are funneled to the county through the state of Iowa.

“We have to requisition through the state,” Robertson said. “They have the funding, but we have to jump through all the FEMA hoops and all of that sort of thing.”

To be eligible to receive flood recovery funds, residents of unincorporated areas of the Mills County are required to relocate within the county. Robertson said residents taking the buy-out are eligible to receive up to $31,000 above the buy-out settlement. For example, the property owner who accepts a $170,000 buy-out could receive recovery funds for an in-county home purchase of up to $201,000.

“Those that have determined they’re going to stay in the county, some have already purchased homes and some are looking,” Robertson said.

Once the buy-out process is completed, the county assumes possession of the property and it becomes deed-restricted for agricultural use only. Robertson said the county would have the option of selling or cash renting the land for farming purposes.

“If a farmer wanted to cash rent (or buy) it, I assume we would probably take bids,” she said. “Obviously, we’d have to put it out there that we’re going to be taking bids on this parcel of ground.”

Robertson said the majority of the county buy-outs are for residential dwellings. The largest piece of property involves a five-acre parcel that includes a house and some out buildings.

The city of Pacific Junction is also moving forward with a buy-out of multiple properties within the city limits. Pacific Junction residents taking buy-outs are required to relocate in Iowa, but don’t have to stay in Mills County to be eligible for funds.

“We (county) are receiving some kickback from a few people who say they can’t find anything in Mills County,” Robertson said. “They say, ‘You’re penalizing me because the people in P.J. can go anywhere in the state.’”

The majority of buy-outs in unincorporated areas of Mills County are occurring west of Interstate 29, Robertson confirmed.


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