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Pearlington buyout program under way
By Dwayne Bremer
May 8, 2013, 02:49

The first phase of a buyout program aimed at purchasing properties in low-lying areas of Pearlington is under way, officials said Monday.
Hancock County Building Official Anthony Cuevas told the board of supervisors Monday that offers have been made to three property owners.
Cuevas said about 110 property owners originally signed up for the program, but it is unclear how many properties will actually be purchased.
The buyout program is part of a $10 million grant from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
"The first thing people need to understand is that it is a voluntary program," Cuevas said. "We have begun getting appraisals on the properties and we will be making more offers soon."
Cuevas said in order to be eligible for the program, property owners had to have owned the property in August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck.
The property must also be a primary residence, he said.
"For some people who always flood, this may be their only relief," Cuevas said. The buyout program has been discussed for several years.
Originally, MEMA set aside $10 million. Last year, $6 million was taken back, but MEMA officials said Tuesday that the state will honor its original allotment of cash, if needed.
"We are going to try to purchase as many properties as we can," MEMA Director of External Affairs Jeff Rent said Tuesday. "We will go up to $10 million. Will it take $10 million? We don't know, but we will do what it takes."
Cuevas said property owners will be offered "fair market value" for their property and offers will be made according to the appraisals.
Supervisors did have an appeal clause in the program, but it voted Monday to remove the appeal option.
"It's a take it or leave it offer," District Five Supervisor Tony Wayne Ladner said.
Cuevas said once the county acquires the property, it will be turned into green-space or used for the public.
"It's going to be green-space unless the county decides to build a boat launch, playground, or something like that," Cuevas said.
Cuevas said of the original 110 properties, the list has been reduced to about 60.
He said anyone who has not applied can call the building department at 228-467-4157 for information.
"We are going to go off the original list for now," he said. "If there is money left over, then we will have a secondary list to see if any additional properties qualify."


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