Flood levy garners public support

Published 12:23 am Sunday, October 26, 2014

Special meetings, letters, emails and many other forms of communication have been used to conjure support for the city of Ironton’s replacement flood levy on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The efforts seem to be working as groups such as Ironton aLive and agencies such as the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization have expressed public support for the levy.

Prior to a special-called town hall-type meeting of Ironton City Council this past Thursday for the sole purpose of discussing the levy, an email blast and Facebook post from Jon Ferguson, executive director of Ironton aLive, said he “encourages everyone to attend, participate and learn why the levy is such an important issue” and the levy is a “serious concern to everyone who lives, works or worships” in Ironton.

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This past July city council unanimously approved resolution 14-29, which proposes a five-year 2-mill levy to replace the current 1-mill levy. Ironton Finance Director Kristen Martin said it’s a measure the Lawrence County Auditor’s Office certified would generate $265,500 a year; nearly twice the current amount. The current 1-mill levy expires at the end of tax year 2015.

An email from Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the CAO, detailed ramifications of the levy failing to pass, such as a requirement being implemented to purchase flood insurance, and also gave reasons why the CAO supports the levy.

“The (CAO) is familiar with the costs of flood insurance with other parties outside the city and the costly impact on operation budgets should it need to acquire flood insurance for properties inside the city,” Kline said. “This is over and above a key concern for life and safety.”

Kline said the CAO and Ironton aLive are two of numerous groups and agencies that are in favor of the initiative and also provided a brochure of facts and reasons for supporting the levy and a map showing the projected floodplain.

In a letter to The Tribune, Kline said he thinks most residents are supportive of the levy, which he deemed “an investment in the community.”

“Much like the roofs on our homes, you know if you don’t invest (in) and maintain that roof you will end up paying much more to address the damage it causes when it leaks,” Kline wrote in the letter. “Also like the roof of your home, it costs much more to replace it today than it did 20 or 30 years ago.”

There has been no more outspoken advocate of the levy perhaps than Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, who said the age of the city’s floodwall, the lack of manpower and funds to perform much-needed maintenance and the annual inspection by the Corps of Engineers all contribute to the sense of urgency associated with the levy.

“For more than 70 years the city has been able to maintain an acceptable rating, but like everything else, it is not cheap,” he said. “The revenue generated by the citizens of Ironton makes it possible to maintain the floodwall system, which protects our homes, our businesses, schools and churches.”

Another facet associated with the levy is the impact on renters if the floodwall were to lose its certification and thus mandatory flood insurance would be implemented.

In the aforementioned brochure circulated by the CAO, mandatory flood insurance costing a landlord $240 a year could represent a $20 increase in rent per month.

At the Oct. 16 special meeting Blankenship said he currently pays $32 a year for the 1-mill levy currently in place and the replacement levy would increase that amount by $58, for a total of $90 a year.

“I’d be glad to pay that because I know the protection the floodwall provides this city,” he said. “I know the protection it provides to me and my family.”

Aaron Bollinger, council member, said during the special meeting people with federally backed mortgages could expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 a year for mandatory flood insurance.

“I’m sure most people would rather pay another $40 or $50 a year for the replacement levy,” he said.

Craig Harvey, council member, lives on Eleventh Street and said the most inexpensive quote he got for flood insurance on his home was through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program (FEMA NFIP). Using the levy calculator on Stephens’ website, www.lawrencecountyauditor.org, Harvey determined he would pay less than $20 a year.

“With a $2,000 deductible I would pay $3,620 a year for flood insurance,” Harvey said. “I think I’d rather pay an extra $19.70.”

Proceeds from an increase would go into an enterprise fund that can only be used for flood protection.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.