By Taylor Short
The Cove Herald
GATESVILLE - The Coryell County commissioners approved to contract with an engineer Monday to survey areas of Mound in hopes of appealing a proposed floodplain map and regaining property value.
The proposed Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain map, approved by the commissioners Jan. 11, shows a wide swath of areas designated "Zone A," or special flood hazard zones, along the Leon River in Mound that runs along the Fort Hood and Coryell County line and passes under Farm-to-Market 1829.
Commissioners voted Monday to contract with an engineer who would survey property of Mound affected by the redesignation.
The county announced Jan. 11 that property owners could purchase insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program before the Feb. 17 effective date to receive a rate based on the old map. Many residents missed the appeal period in early 2009 leading to complaints from the public about the map.
Commissioners requested an extended effective date but despite the outcry, County Judge John Firth said FEMA promised to amend the maps within 30 days only if the county can provide evidence that the map is inaccurate.
"We believe that with that survey data, signed by a certified surveyor, along with statements from all of you that your homes have never flooded, that we can hopefully get them to amend their digital map," Firth told Mound residents Monday.
Surveyors with Walker, Wiederhold & Associates of Killeen plan to assess the area, collecting data to show whether floodwaters would actually threaten property near the river to the extent the proposed map suggests.
"FEMA have never come to Coryell County, they've never been to Mound," Firth said. "They don't know Mound from any place else in Coryell County other than a map they're looking at."
The county agreed to pay no more than $5,000 for the survey services, according to the contract. If the data shows that FEMA's map is correct, Firth said a more detailed alternative of getting a hydrology study of the area might be necessary.
Leon River project
In a related action, the court urged Coryell County residents to comment on a proposed project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the eroded banks of the Leon River.
The Fall Off Creek Mitigation project would dam the Leon River near County Road 344, restoring stream flow to the to the historic river channel by redirecting flows from the existing ditch to the original channel, according to a USACE public notice. The USACE extended the comment period by 30 days to Feb. 22.
Firth said the goal is to slow the river and reduce erosion. He urged residents, especially those in Mound, to comment and ask questions about the project to ensure that there would be no negative effects on nearby property.
The commissioners also approved the purchase of a new antenna and strobe light on a 38-year-old radio tower that serves the Coryell County Sheriff's Department and fire andGatesville police and fire, located just north of Osage Road.
County Fire Marshal Billy Vaden said after years of lighting strikes and insufficient maintenance, the tower must be painted or have a light installed to comply with Federal Communications Commission requirements.
The tower also needs new guy wires, ground anchors and a new lock as well as maintenance to trees at the base, but the court agreed to focus on immediate issues for a total of about $10,275.
The court also reviewed the 2010 county budget with about $7.47 million left in the general fund from a starting balance of about $11.28 million.
Firth said the county has had issues this fiscal year with lower property values and sales tax revenues, but is in fair shape with the 2010 budget at a 33.8 percent balance at about one -third through the year, or about $170,000 over budget.
The county purchased new vehicles for the sheriff's department, allocated $100,000 for ambulance services and donations up front and would not affect the budget through the rest of the fiscal year.
Contact Taylor Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.