County Commissioners Table Flood Control Ordinance Revisions For Further Study

Because they had some questions and concerns, the Kosciusko County Commissioners on Tuesday tabled any action on the revisions to the county’s flood control ordinance.

Area Plan Assistant Planner Matt Sandy presented the comprehensive flood control regulations ordinance amendment to the Commissioners. The Area Plan Commission voted 8-1 earlier this month to recommend the Commissioners adopt it.

“Historically, through the years, there have been changes that happen and they’re spurred on as the program flows FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and us,” Sandy said. “The DNR is our overseer, they adopt the state side of it, and then pass it along to locals that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.”

There have been some changes at the federal and state levels so a new model for the flood control regulations has been created and passed on to the communities, he said. The county has gone through that model ordinance and drafted it to adopt the changes that were listed.

“One of the biggest changes, and this is the one that I got the most discussion at Plan Commission was the cumulative improvement requirement being moved. What it essentially is, is those homes in a flood zone that pre-date our maps – so that would be prior to 1987 – are considered grandfathered in. However, as they make changes, FEMA and the state has said, ‘OK, we’ll allow you to do so much up to a certain point but after you hit that point, we want you to bring that structure in to compliance with flood regulations. That could mean adding fence or as extreme as raising a house,” Sandy explained.

In the past, he said, at one point it was a one-time-and-done no matter how much money was spent. Then it went to a cumulative and was tracked until it hit 50%.

“That has been eased back so what we’ve done is remove that cumulative to give us the ability to look at each project as a shot by itself, not adding the past projects into, which ultimately will open up more potential projects,” Sandy said. “Now, they still have that threshold of 50% in there, so if they go beyond that, we’re still at the same point we were before, but we’re not adding everything together.”

Commissioner Brad Jackson said it was his understanding that the DNR now has say over flood plain elevations around ditches (county regulated drains). Sandy said that was correct.

“So, in the ordinance – and there’s been a section that’s always talked about unknown flood areas or high-flooding areas that have the potential to flood. What happened – and this has been three or four years ago – we got our new maps in 2015. After that time, the DNR initiated a project on their own to go through the state and map a lot of these unmapped areas. There may have been a flood zone associated to it that FEMA didn’t map, so they went back and mapped out these areas. And those areas became best available flood layers,” Sandy said.

He said the county’s ordinance said they’re supposed to regulate the flood plains with the best data possible. “DNR said the best data possible in those areas where there’s not a FEMA map is the best available flood layer,” he said.

Jackson said, “If I’m thinking properly, there’s one in Syracuse when we had all that problem up there – that, to me, was a lot of negligence on their part and engineering and caused a lot of unnecessary problems. And also the fact that it’s then up to the property owner to prove that their information is incorrect that they came up with. I have a huge problem with it.”

Commissioner Bob Conley said he talked to County Surveyor Mike Kissinger about the ordinance amendment and they agreed there’s areas that need to be further delineated and discussed. He said rather than approve the changes now, they need to take a “harder” look at it. He made a motion to table it for further study.

Jackson asked Conley if he wanted to table it and send it back to the Area Plan Commission or just table it for the Commissioners to do a deeper dive into the changes. Conley said both – send it back to the Area Plan Commission and the Commissioners further study it.

The Commissioners unanimously voted to table it.

Once the Commissioners approve changes, the ordinance amendment still have to be “blessed” by the DNR and FEMA, Sandy said. They check to make sure it’s compliant at the state and federal level.

Sandy also presented an information sharing access agreement between the county and FEMA.

“We participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, but we also, as a side program, participate in the community rating system. That is a program that gives us extra credit in discounting insurance for activities that we complete,” Sandy said.

In the past, he said, for the county to identify the areas that get flooded “a lot of times, back to back,” the county was provided that data. Originally, it was just a list that was sent to the county; then it was sent by CD; then the county had to request it.

“That process has now changed and that data used to be held by the Insurance Service Office. FEMA has taken that data back and they are now the administrators of that,” Sandy said. “Because it’s coming from them, they require us to get a sharing agreement for the data so that they can release it to us, making us aware that we’re only to use it for what it is because some of it is insurance data that is not publicly released, only for administrative matters.”

The Commissioners approved the three-year agreement with FEMA.

In other business, the Commissioners approved:

• The American Rescue Plan Act Committee’s recommendation to give $25,000 a year for four years to LaunchPad for shared services for child care providers in the county. The County Council approved the allocation from ARPA funds at its meeting Thursday.

Also approved by the Committee and Council, and then approved by the Commissioners Tuesday, were $200,000 for the Justice Building fire alarm system; $120,000 for seal coating of the county jail showers; $36,105 for Sophos MTR Cybersecurity Enhancement; and $222,794.72 for the communication tower connectivity project.

• Awarding the annual planned maintenance quote to service all the HVAC in all of the county’s building to Core Mechanical for $21,337, as requested by County Administrator Marsha McSherry.

• Awarding the jail shower coating quote to Northern Industrial Coating for $116,554.52, as requested by McSherry.

• Awarding the office furniture quote to KDA Furniture for $24,051.66, as requested by McSherry. The furniture is for three different areas, she said.

• For County Auditor Michelle Puckett to advertise for the re-establishment of the cumulative capital development and cumulative bridge funds’ tax rate.

“Each one of those funds are rate-driven and as part of our budget process each year, those rates tend to get adjusted down a little bit in the calculation of our total tax rate. So, what we like to do at this time each year is advertise to re-establish those rates at the statutory limit where they were previously, previous to that adjustment. So this is not a new tax, this is part of our budget process and it does give us the flexibility during that process – if we are able to budget more for cumulative bridge, we have the ability to do that because we re-established that rate, and the same with CCD,” Puckett explained.

The resolution will be presented to the Commissioners at their March 29 meeting.

• The 2022 interlocal agreement between the county and the Kosciusko County Convention and Recreation Visitors Commission.

• For the highway department to purchase a new truck for $46,530.