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Homeowners on the cliffs of Calvert County who are at imminent risk of property destruction because of cliff erosion will be glad to see the purchase of the properties coming to fruition with the completion of long-sought grants.

Following a public hearing, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a budget adjustment to include a $5 million grant for the work needed to demolish and remove 10 houses on the cliffs of Calvert County.

Marcia Siefert, a Lusby cliff homeowner, said when she bought her home in 2000, there were 52 feet between her property and the cliff. Now, she said, a portion of her property is 12 feet away from the top of the 70-foot drop.

“I wanna ask you, and say to you, that this process, while we’re very, very grateful for it, started almost a year ago as far as the homeowners were concerned. And, it’s still going on,” she said. Siefert explained that she moved in July 2012 because the grant was expected to be completed sooner, and she is now paying double mortgages.

Siefert said she is “grateful beyond words” that county staff is working to bring this to a “timely conclusion.”

In February 2010, Maryland House Minority Leader Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) hosted a town hall meeting to discuss the eroding cliffs and issues residents have encountered trying to protect their homes and property. During the meeting, a federal grant was identified that would allow the purchase of cliff properties identified to be in imminent risk of destruction due to cliff erosion.

In November 2011, the grant application was completed and included property owners with significant erosion problems. The grant was tentatively approved in February 2012 pending completion of preliminary engineering and follow-up paperwork. Also in February 2012, the homeowners agreed to terms for the buyout.

Engineering assessments were completed and submitted by the homeowners last May and then submitted to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in June for final approval by Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In early October, FEMA granted final approval for the project. In November, the BOCC signed two memorandums of agreement with MEMA to utilize FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds to complete the site engineering work, develop the Erosion Control Plan, provide a scope of work and advertise a request for bid, purchase, demolition and removal of 10 properties identified in those agreements.

The total value of the FEMA Hazard Mitigation grants is $5,151,588, according to a memo from Julie Paluda, the county’s capital projects analyst. Tuesday’s approved budget adjustment was for $5,111,588 because $40,000 of the grant was already approved as a budget adjustment for the initial site work in late November.

The memo states that all costs incurred related to the agreements will be fully funded by either the grants or by the property owners. The cost share for this plan, the agreement states, is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, which means the county will be paying 75 percent of the assessed value of a particular home and that homeowner must pay 25 percent of the costs for items such as demolition.

County receives funds for derecho costs

The county is receiving 92 percent of the total cost for its efforts during the derecho storm last summer from FEMA funding for the damage left in late June by the derecho storm.

According to a memo from Melissa McCoy, grants analyst for the county, several county departments worked to clear debris, make repairs and operate emergency facilities when the severe weather hit in June. The total cost for the county’s efforts was $59,764.40, the memo states.

In late July, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) requested federal disaster assistance for the state and on Aug. 2, President Barack Obama approved the request.

aharrison@somdnews.com