City ponders FEMA grant for house

Only one home in Kings Hills subdivision qualified for aid
Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:06 AM

When it meets this evening at City Hall, the City Commission will consider a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to acquire and demolish a flood-damaged house on Kings Hill Boulevard.

Under the terms of FEMA's proposal, the federal government would pay $223,125. The city and the state would each be responsible for $37,187.50.

Commissioners reviewed the FEMA grant proposal at a work session Thursday afternoon.

"This is a project that we strongly recommend," city planner David Taylor told commissioners. "It doesn't do everything we wanted in the beginning, but we feel this would go a long way in alleviating the flooding problems in Kings Hill."

After the house is demolished, the property will be placed into a natural state, Taylor said. Newly planted trees there will help guard against flooding.

FEMA approved just one out of six such applications for houses in the Kings Hill area. Only houses whose living spaces are damaged can receive the grant. Taylor said the the application of a homeowner in the area was denied even though his garage flooded, because the home's living areas were not affected.

Commissioner Randal Robinson remarked that the Kings Hill Boulevard property's assessed value seemed low.

"I'm happy for anything I can get," property owner Ryan DeSear told commissioners in response. "If I can pay out my mortgage, I'm happy."

Another property owner at the meeting asked that his FEMA grant be submitted again. "I say my property is in just as bad shape," he said.

"We can resubmit, but I don't think we'll have a much different outcome," Taylor said.

"Evidently that development was not planned out right," commissioner Joyce Brackins observed.

Also discussed at the work session: the seemingly stalled demolition of a condemned petting zoo; a wellness grant for city employees from BlueCross BlueShield; and a proposal from the Pigeon Forge restaurant Bullfish Grill to operate concessions at the city's LeConte Center, the events facility due to open in the fall.

The commissioners were to have reviewed laws pertaining to the voting rights of Pigeon Forge property owners. However, city attorney Jim Gass was not present to answer questions about his research on the issue, due to a death in the family.

On March 14, Pigeon Forge voters will again decide whether to legalize liquor by the drink. Pigeon Forge property owners may vote in municipal elections, up to two owners per parcel.

Property-rights voters were a contentious issue in the now-voided Nov. 6 referendum that legalized liquor by the drink. There was contentious discussion of property-rights voting at the work session before it adjourned.

At today's City Commission meeting, commissioners also will consider:

- On first reading, an ordinance amending a previous ordinance on annual appropriations for the 2012-2013 fiscal year

- The BlueCross BlueShield wellness grant for city employees

- A $7,696.63 change order from Progression Electric for the Music Road traffic signal installation

- A copy machine for the trolley department

- Pagers for new Fire Department personnel

- An in-lieu of property tax contract from the city of Sevierville relating to the Sevier County Electric System

kburns@themountainpress.com