Gutro Opposes Mayor's Flood Map Spending

Councilor at-large Doug Gutro, who is running for mayor this year, and Ward 4 Councilor Brian Palmucci said the spending in question, which funded elevation certificates for more than 1,000 property owners, came from accounts intended for other uses.

 

QUINCY – A pair of city councilors are blasting Mayor Thomas Koch for spending at least $360,000 in his fight against Quincy’s controversial flood map without first getting permission from the council.

Councilor at-large Doug Gutro, who is running for mayor this year, and Ward 4 Councilor Brian Palmucci said the spending in question, which funded elevation certificates for more than 1,000 property owners, came from accounts intended for other uses.

“Whatever account they took it from, it wasn’t an authorized expenditure from the council,” Palmucci said.

Koch said the spending was appropriate because it came from accounts designated for engineering or drainage uses.

“That was a perfect fit for that expenditure,” Koch said.

Gutro said Koch rushed to spend the money in response to a crisis he could have averted if he had just appealed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood map two years ago. An appeal in June 2013, which Koch chose not to pursue, would have delayed the implementation of the map by a year. 

Instead, the map went into effect last June, adding roughly 1,400 properties to the flood plain and raising risk rates for about 2,700 properties. Mortgage holders in the plain are required to buy flood insurance.

Paying for elevation certificates “was a knee-jerk reaction to a firestorm of public concern when residents found out the flood maps were not appealed,” Gutro said.

Late last month, an engineering firm hired by Koch said the city had paid for elevation certificates for more than 1,000 properties. The certificates, completed by a licensed land surveyor, cost about $350 each. 

As of Jan. 20, the city said $368,000 had been spent on elevation certificates, and that didn’t include costs for staff time from city engineers.

The purpose of the certificates, Koch says, was to help the city and individual property owners challenge the latest flood map. The city’s challenge, called a request for a map revision, was recently accepted by FEMA, meaning the agency will redraw the map in the coming weeks.

The city expects the new map will benefit 1,500 property owners affected by the disputed map.

Koch said most of the $368,000 used toward elevation certificates came from the $25 million capital improvement loan approved by the council in 2011. Of that loan, $10 million was dedicated to drainage repairs, $5 million to building repairs, $5 million to sea walls, $3.5 million to streets/sidewalks, $1.6 million for new equipment and $305,000 to environmental remediation.

The rest of the elevation certificate costs, Koch said, came from the city’s engineering and drainage budgets.

“I think the expenditures were well within those categories to use,” Koch said.

Palmucci disagrees, saying the purpose of the 2011 capital improvement plan was to fund flood-mitigation projects.

“It’s not a capital improvement,” Palmucci said of the elevation certificates. “This is money that should go toward building a pump station at Furnace Avenue.”

Palmucci said he would have supported some type of spending for the elevation certificates if the city had just presented a plan. Gutro said he’s not sure if he would have supported the spending because it’s unknown whether the city will be reimbursed for the certificates. 

Also, Gutro said some property owners who got elevation certificates saw no change in their flood-map status, while other residents got a certificate despite never requesting one from the city.

Woodard & Curran, the consulting engineers, said the city will apply to be reimbursed by FEMA for all costs incurred by its map-revision request, including elevation certificates.

 

Read More at the Patriot Ledger: http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20150217/NEWS/150217064/0/SEARCH


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