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Evergreen Village resident pleads for quicker relocation process

SYCAMORE – Gayland Baker wanted to make his frustration as clear as the water that surrounded his and his neighbors' homes.

Baker, a resident of Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park in Sycamore, stood along Route 64 Tuesday morning with a sign urging the state, county and federal agencies to speed up the relocation process for the roughly 400 people living in the flood plain.

Frustration set in for Baker after a rainy weekend combined with snow accumulation left up to six inches of standing water in some areas of the park, making it impossible for some residents to leave their home because of flooded roadways.

"How many more times must we get flooded before they help us?" Baker asked of county officials. "I know they can't do it overnight, but when they are sitting high and dry in their homes, we're the ones getting wet."

An 18-year resident of the park, Baker has lived through numerous major floods – most recently in 2007 and 2008 – that have caused him to replace his trailer's skirting, insulation and flooring. While he said he would like to move out of the park, he cannot afford to without the relocation assistance promised by the county in July after receiving a federal grant.

DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson said he understands residents' frustrations and concerns, but the amount of stipulations and mandates attached to the $4.2 million federal grant is harder to navigate than anticipated. A projected March informational meeting for residents has been postponed to at least April as officials figure out relocation requirements in the grant and hire a project manager, Hanson said.

"The more we get into it the regulations, the more we see they are not always clear," Hanson said. "There is not a lot of history, even at the state level, to guide this."

Baker's hope for urgency is shared by Hanson, who said the park's condition Tuesday was a reminder disaster could strike at any time between now and the mandated June 2015 deadline to complete the project.

Still, Hanson could not guarantee residents would start to be relocated in 2013.

"That would be a lot of speculation at this point," Hanson said. "We want to get this rolling as quick as possible, but we have to make sure we satisfy all the requirements."

Though the county has the $4.2 million federal grant and $1.4 million in state money to complete the $5.6 million project, Baker said the delays and lengthy timeline raise concerns.

He pointed to the county's efforts to relocate residents after flooding in the mid-1990s as one reason while he will only believe help is on the way when he sees it.

"Everybody is frustrated," Baker said. "We've been told [the county] was going to do something before, but we're still here and the floods keep coming and coming and coming."

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