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County ready to start Evergreen Village relocation planning

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST
Caption
(Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)
Children walk to their homes Wednesday in Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park after getting off the school bus. More than 50 kids living in Evergreen Village attend the Sycamore School District 427.

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County is ready to start the potential two-year process of relocating mobile-home park residents who live in a flood plain.

County officials recently received the $4.2 million federal grant announced six months ago, paving the way for meetings with grant consultants and a chance to craft a rough timeline for relocating the people who live in the 129-unit Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park, 955 E. State St., said Gary Hanson, DeKalb County administrator. The park sits on Sycamore’s east side across from the Sycamore Golf Course.

Hanson said while the county is eager to act quickly to move residents before major flooding that occurred in 2007 and 2008 happens again, officials cannot afford a misstep in the process because it would mean the loss of federal dollars.

“When the federal government gives you money, they put in all kind of stipulations, and we have to make sure we fully understand those before we start,” Hanson said. “We have to be very methodical.”

The mobile-home park is located in a flood plain that has flooded severely twice in the past six years, requiring emergency federal assistance both times. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will provide the additional $1.4 million to complete the $5 million relocation project.

A long administrative process

County officials will meet with grant consultants and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency this month to review the plethora of mandates and stipulations attached to the grant.

The process, which is expected to take anywhere from 18 months to two years, will include public hearings, individual meetings with homeowners in the park and property value updates. It also will include partnerships with the DeKalb County Housing Authority and Sycamore School District 427 to help with the residents’ transitions.

Steering the project will be Paul Miller and his small staff of four in the county’s planning and zoning department. Miller first wants to make sure he understands the process, because the county has never executed a mitigation project of this size. Then, he’ll reach out to park residents with information, likely in March, Hanson said.

“It would be premature to send out information before we even know what to send out,” Miller said. “I know people out there are eager, but this is not the sort of thing that is going to happen in a matter of weeks. We have to make sure we meet the requirements under the law.”

An eye on the residents

One of the eager individuals is DeKalb County Board member Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore, who represents residents of the park. Andersen said he would have liked to see residents moved from the location “yesterday,” and is still hopeful the relocation can begin in June.

“I’m very concerned with how it’s going to take us so long to get to moving people,” he said. “We could very well be flooded out again and have to go through all that. We just want to get those people out of harms way and get them some decent housing.”

When the move does happen for residents, Michelle Perkins said her organization would do everything it could to place people in affordable and nearby housing. Perkins, executive director of the DeKalb County Housing Authority, said while Section 8 and low-income housing wait lists are full, preference is given to those who are involuntarily displaced.

“There is only a certain amount of time for those residents to transition, but we are going to try everything we can,” she said.

Jeremiah Moore, who lives in the park and works there as the maintenance man, said the relocation project has made residents anxious. It has been talked about for years without any action taking place. He said while it is a stressful situation, he hopes it becomes a reality.

“If we ever get bought out, I’ll be out of a job, but what’s right is right and these people deserve to be safe,” he said. “Once you go through one flood, you’ve gone through enough.”

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