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Columbia County 'back pedals' on buying flood damaged homes

6:50 PM, Sep 5, 2012   |    comments
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LAKE CITY, Fla. -- September was supposed to be a new start for Michael Williams, his wife and five children; it is not.

"In fact, they told us to go on and buy another house," said Williams.

in June, during Tropical Storm Debby, Williams' Lake City home was flooded and severely damaged.

"There's mold growth in the house," he said, "It is in unhabitable condition at best."

Williams was ready to rebuild, but Columbia County officials told him under a Stormwater mitigation program, the county plans to buy six flood damaged homes, including his.

"We met with the county acquisition agent who put it on a contract," he said. 

The sales agreement states the county would close the sale on or before August 31, but the day before, August 30, Williams received a letter from the County Commission Chairman that said a final decision cannot be made at this time.

"When we went to that meeting, it wasn't discuss that we might do this," said Williams, "The county manager, the county attorney and our county commissioner and all involved here said, 'this is a done deal do not rebuild your home.'"

County Commission Chairman Scarlet Frisina, in a letter to Williams, said other property owners were not included in the Clayhole Stormwater mitigation project and had offered to sell, and there needs to be more studies.

First Coast News made efforts to discuss the issue with county manager Dale Williams, but he was not available and did not return calls.

Six families are now in limbo.

"If you say you're going to do something, you should do it," said Williams.

"I committed to help them get proper appraisals; I committed to take it to the board, I feel I have done as much as I can do," Frisina said.

Frisina said other board members want an engineering study to see if the mitigation plan is necessary and other residents want the county to buy their properties, so any purchases are now delayed.

First Coast News

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