City continues fight over flood elevations

By: By JAMES A. ROBICHAUX

MORGAN CITY — The city’s ongoing struggle with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over base flood elevations, and purchases of new electrical system equipment, were among topics discussed at Thursday’s meeting on the finance committee of the city council.

“We’ve spent $151,000” on the efforts to get FEMA to revise its base flood elevations,” mayor Tim Matte said.

District 3 Councilman Luke Manfre asked the mayor if there was no way to get that money back if the city can prove FEMA wrong.

“If we’re successful in the whole thing, it will all be worth it,” Matte said.

At issue are FEMA’s determinations of base flood elevations, which the agency says are higher than previously thought, meaning that levees need to be higher and that insurance and loans for new construction will be much harder to obtain. The city contends that FEMA’s calculations are wrong.

“I’ve said that from the very first day, that was the whole fallacy,” Matte said to Manfre.

“They went off into their office. They calculated all this stuff, said ‘Here’s your map, and by the way, your base flood elevations are five feet too low.’

“That’s ridiculous. If you’re going to make that kind of a change, you’d better, one, check your numbers, and two, you’d better involve the community and make sure you have the levees in the right place, which did not happen.”

Manfre asked if the city could involve the area’s congressional delegation, specifically Sen. David Vitter.

“Our effort certainly did involve that,” Matte responded, “and we did that jointly with Terrebonne and Lafourche for the same reason. They were experiencing the same problem.”

Matte explained that part of the problem with this effort and with involving the state was that most cities and parishes had different levels of interests, different problems, and different approaches to otherwise similar problems.

“In the case of Terrebonne Parish, their objective was more of a delay tactic than anything else, whereas ours is clear from the start,” Matte said. “We want the BFEs back to where they were when we started.”

In other business, after a discussion that included testimony from city utilities director Bill Cefalu, the committee voted to allocate $150,000 from capital additions and contingencies to the utilities for a repaired transformer from recent lightening strikes and two new breakers.

The allocation will be recommended to the council and voted on at the upcoming monthly council meeting on Tuesday night.

In other business, the committee recommended allocation of $15,000 for the purchase of new Christmas decorations for downtown. Matte said that the current decorations are old and fragile.

Also, Carl Kraemer, planning and zoning director, spoke of the upgrading to the city’s zoning codes.

Matte said that he wants to see “computerized zoning” in which anyone can go to the city’s website and click on any area of the city and be able to see what is permitted and what is not permitted.

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