Program could help flooded residents move from Clover Street
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 17,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Houses along Clover Street in Rutland City have been flooded several times over the last decade.
Howard Lear is sick of getting flooded.
“My building’s getting rotted out little by little,” said Lear, who runs a rug-cleaning business, Alberico Rug Cleaners, and lives on Clover Street in Rutland.
“My basement is just a mess — I’m not even bothering with that. ... I have to keep re-sheetrocking this place,” he said. “Finally, I stopped doing it. I’m getting ready to close up, that’s how bad it’s getting.”
While city officials say they don’t know how to stop the flooding, they may have found a way to move Lear and his neighbors away from it.
Lear said his property has flooded five times since rising waters became a regular occurrence on Clover Street in 2008.
“One year I got hit twice,” he said. “This year, knock on wood, we haven’t gotten any. Of course, last year we didn’t have the snow.”
While properties on Clover Street have been regularly damaged over the last five years, Mayor Christopher Louras said no one flood brought them to the 50 percent damage threshold at which the city could get federal money to buy out property owners.
With blight moving to the front of the city’s agenda, this had officials casting worried eyes at Clover, fearful of an entire neighborhood of abandoned properties. Louras said at least three buildings on the street already stand vacant.
However, Louras said the federal hazard mitigation program has changed and eligibility is now determined through a complex formula that accounts for damage over longer periods of time. He said this week he was recruiting property owners before digging into the 45-page application.
“I’d just as soon they bought me out so I can move out of here and get a new place,” Lear said. “If I can do that, that’d make me really happy.”
Louras said the program would involve a local match and that the buildings would be purchased for their assessed value, which would have to be confirmed by an independent assessment.
That, however, could be a sticking point for some residents.
Paul Whitney, who lost a car in the 2008 flood and quipped during the 2009 flood that the neighborhood was costing him money, said he has seen the assessment on his Clover Street home lowered twice since flooding became a regular occurrence there. First it dropped from $104,000 to $85,000, he said, and then to $50,000.
“I can’t just undersell myself because property out there is higher than a sonofagun,” he said. “If I sell here for too little, I wouldn’t be able to afford a place. ... If they give us enough money for this property to put us in another house, I may consider that. I’m at retirement means, here.”
Whitney said he has been on Clover Street 40 years and has weathered the recent floods intact.
“We’re still here and it didn’t hurt anything,” he said. “Lost a couple thousand dollars of stuff in the basement, but it didn’t do any damage to the house.”
Any buildings the city does buy would be raised, Louras said, and the properties could wind up being used to build a retention system for keeping stormwater out of Moon Brook.