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Commissioners vote buys up flooded homes

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One taxpayer dying of cancer

The Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE – County commissioners voted 3-1 to accept Federal Emergency Management Administration funds to buy out two homeowners who purchased homes in a floodplain, but the only dissenting vote – Precinct 3’s Heath Sims – said it’s not the local government’s responsibility to bail out homeowners.

"I voted no because I do not think it is the job of the government to use taxpayers’ money to rescue individual investments that have gone bad," said Sims, a Republican who faces Democrat Jim Schico in the Nov. 4 general election.

"I feel for the people but because of the importance of freedom it is the individual’s responsibility and they, not the taxpayer, are accountable for their decisions."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Dennis Robinson, a Republican facing re-election against Democrat Broderick Sargent, said after his yes vote the long-term solutions were that FEMA’s grant money would prohibit any future structure from being constructed on the properties.

Robinson also said it would be cheaper for the court to make this decision now rather than wait for costly removal expenses later.

Ron Brown, a Republican who is also the court’s longest serving commissioner having represented Precinct 4 since 1991, said he didn’t agree with federal bailouts for banks and financial institutions, but one of the homeowners to be bought out who lives in Brown’s conservative precinct - in Oak Leaf – is dying of cancer.

Stipulations for the grant money, according to County Auditor Mike Navarro, would grant the properties back to county ownership for use as a park or open space, prohibiting any construction on the land.

Navarro, an appointed official, said the homeowners must accept the buyout on a voluntary basis.

"If property owner chooses to reject offer, then property will be dropped from any future consideration for Hazard Mitigation Grant Program acquisitions, and the jurisdiction is forbidden from using its power of condemnation to acquire the property while the [grant] project is open," Navarro said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Bill Dodson and County Judge Chad Adams did not respond to this writer’s e-mail about the buyout.

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