Federal funds for Rock Springs flood recovery approved
ROCK SPRINGS — Rock Springs has been approved for about $1.2 million in federal grants that will be used to purchase properties that were damaged in 2018 floods.
In addition, the village is planning to move its entire downtown to higher ground, away from the flood-prone Baraboo River.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant Program approval was announced at the June 15 village board meeting, according to a draft of the meeting minutes on the village’s website.
Clerk/Treasurer Jennifer Roloff said in a June 30 email the purchase of eight properties was approved through Wisconsin Emergency Management. She said in a follow-up interview July 7 the properties includes the former community center on Broadway Street. Nine properties, including the community center, were ruled substantially damaged and eligible for potential buyouts from flooding in August 2018, when 27 feet of water rushed through the village of about 360 people.
Wisconsin Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation Supervisor Katie Sommers said in addition to the 8 properties, three alternate property’s were listed in the approval for Rock Springs, which are also eligible for potential buyouts if money is left over from a project coming in under budget.
“It’s sort of like a waiting list,” Sommers said of the alternates.
Sommers said Rock Springs was approved for over $1.2 million in FEMA funds, with state and local contributions in the hazard mitigation grant program at over $205,000 each for a total amount of over $1.6 million. The federal funds make up 75% with the other 25% coming from state and local government.
Sommers said all eight properties and two of the alternate properties are in the flood way of the flood plain and one of the alternates is in the flood fringe. The flood way is the part of the flood plain where water is moving faster during a flood and the flood fringe is where the water is in a pool or not moving as fast, she said.
The property owners have been notified, Roloff said. Rock Springs is the first community affected by the 2018 floods in the area to receive notification it’s been approved for buyouts through FEMA’s voluntary program.
Roloff said the next step is to work with Wisconsin Emergency Management to get bids, appraisals, demolition costs and title work for the properties.
“Anything that’s associated in buying and taking down the property, that’s what we are in the process of doing,” she said.
She wasn’t sure when the buildings will come down. Once demolished, the properties will become green space with deed restrictions that will prohibit anything being built on the space again.
Roloff said Rock Springs will receive FEMA money to repair damage to Firemen’s Park, city streets and the wastewater pond. So far, the village has invested more than $250,000 along with $190,072 from the federal government and $29,831 from the state and village to repair the public works damage, including debris removal, buildings and equipment, utilities and roads and bridges. The only category left to be determined is the public assistance for the community center, she said.
Village Board Trustee Jamie Busser, who also chairs the flood recovery committee as well as parks and ordinances, said in a June 9 email that repairs are proceeding on Firemen’s Park and it should be fully open by next spring.
Village Board President Lisa Zautke did not respond to a July 9 voicemail seeking comment.
The village is also looking to relocate its entire downtown, including its municipal, residential and commercial districts, about a quarter of a mile out of the Baraboo River flood plain and onto higher ground. Earlier this year, the village board approved the purchase of land on Railroad Street where it plans to build a $1.9 million, 8,200-square-foot community center that will include village offices, meeting space, library, fire department and public works.
The village approved creating a tax incremental district in May to help with expenses not covered by grants for the commercial and residential districts.
The Joint Review Board is scheduled to have its first meeting at 1 p.m. July 14 to appoint an at-large representative, elect a chairman, and for members to review and comment on an initial draft of the TID 2 project plan and boundary, according to the agenda. The meeting will take place at the Rock Springs Fire Station, 105 E Broadway St.
Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.