ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – The head of St. Charles County government says there’s a flaw in the federal flood program, and it’s wasting your tax dollars.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann says people are turning down flood buyouts but still having taxpayers pay to repair their houses time after time.
“The issue with the flood buyout, I believe, is people who were offered the buyout and then don’t accept it. That’s fine; it’s a free country,” he said. “But if you turn down the buyout, you shouldn’t be able to continue to collect money on your house after every single flood.”
St. Charles County is getting $17 million to purchase homes and other properties lost in the 2019 flood. But many homeowners are opting to rebuild rather than be bought out.
Tom Silk lives in West Alton, one of the areas eligible for a buyout. He says he’s been flooded time and again but has no plans to leave.
“Oh yeah, I’ve went through 1993, 1995, 2016, 2019. Oh yeah, been through quite a few of them,” he said. “There’s no way (I’ll leave). This is home. This is where I want to stay. There’s not enough money to make me move.”
Silk says he’s not one of those bilking taxpayers.
But our investigation found some other cases that may have you asking questions. We are not using addresses for the sake of anonymity.
- One family’s home was worth $490,000, but they were paid about $1.1 million in your flood repair dollars in repeated floods.
- Another home worth $114,000 was paid $750,000 for repeated flood repairs.
- A home worth $140,000 got $725,000.
- A $180,000 house got $680,000 over time.
- One home worth just $50,000 ended up getting $345,000 in buyout money. The homeowner chose to rebuild after each flood.
Ehlmann insists not a good deal.
“As you know, we have lots of people who have now collected more than their house is worth, and will continue to collect every time there’s a flood,” he said. “That’s why we do the buyout; to pay once and be done with it. But if they don’t want us to be done with it, they don’t have to take the buyout, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
Ehlmann says many people are doing just that.
“You tell them, ‘Listen, we’re offering you the value of your house!’ It’s up to you whether you’re going to take it,” he said. “But you can’t refuse to take it and then continue to file claims and end up, in the long run, having the taxpayers reimburse you a value that’s twice what your house is worth originally.”
According to Ehlmann, Washington’s federal officials will need to make changes, but he doesn’t anticipate that happening anytime soon.