Council goes for buyouts

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 22, 2001

The city of Austin will continue to pursue its favorite flood control practice: the buyout program.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

The city of Austin will continue to pursue its favorite flood control practice: the buyout program.

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At Monday night’s regular meeting of the Austin City Council, Mayor Bonnie Rietz told members of a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to seek federal funds for another flood buyout program.

The mayor and Kermit Mahan, executive director of the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority, plus Jon W. Erichson, city engineer and director of public works, visited the nation’s capital a week ago to meeting with Minnesota’s congressional delegation and others concerning an application for federal funds.

According to the mayor, the city is seeking $5 million to acquire 79 specific structures – homes, businesses and other buildings – located in the designated flood plain.

Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) encouraged Austin city officials to pursue the funds.

Among those whom the city officials saw was U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the powerful Senate finance committee.

Grassley told the Austin delegation he would endorse the city’s application for federal funds to acquire properties in the flood plain.

In addition, Erichson told the city officials that efforts continue to create a watershed coordinator’s position.

The city is asking for financial and other support from the Mower County Board of Commissioners and the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District to fund the new position.

According to Erichson, the watershed coordinator would focus attention the watershed areas around the city of Austin and encourage and promote conservation practices that could reduce the amount of water flowing into Austin via the Turtle and Dobbins creeks and Cedar River.

"I believe we’re on top of our game," Dick Chaffee, council member at-large, said after the presentation by the mayor and Erichson.

"This is the way to do it," Third Ward council member Gloria Nordin said. "All we can do is hope and pray we get the funds to do the work."

Mickey Jorgenson, First Ward council member, cautioned city officials that the earliest the city can expect a response to its application for federal funds is September.

"No short-term answer should be expected," she said.

Last July, flood waters again inundated the city. Among the hardest hit areas was that along Oakland Avenue East. Jim’s SuperValu, Doors & Floors and Lerum Star Liquor suffered damages at the 11th Street NE intersection. Queen of Angels Catholic Church, located across from Driesner Park, also suffered damage and a handful of businesses near the Fourth Street NE intersection also were damaged by flood waters.

Among the most seriously damaged business was Double K Speciality, which moved into the old Holiday Cars location, but the Salvation Army Austin Corps and Austin Eagles Aerie No. 703 also were victims of unchecked flood waters.

Meanwhile, the neighborhoods along the Cedar River also saw severe damage to residences.

Because the flood waters happened so frequently in the areas, the natural disaster prompted citizens to demand legitimate flood control practices and the business owners and homeowners formed an informal organization to demand the city’s attention.

The city invited the Army Corps of Engineers to examine the situation, but the corps determined flood control measures would not be cost-effective.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at