Belhaven mayor, manager argue mitigation

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2007

By Staff
Residents briefed on flood prevention
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — Less than 10 feet above sea level, Belhaven is a prime target for hurricane-related flooding, and has been the victim of severe storms in the past. Nearing the peak of this year’s hurricane season, Town Manager Tim Johnson ventured to set the record straight on federal flood-relief funding, opening the flood gates for speculative discussion on the town’s past flood-prevention projects.
Johnson said someone in town government had been promising Belhaven residents that their houses would be raised above floodplain level in the case that another hurricane should hit. Those residents he said were coming to him wanting to know why their houses have not been raised.
Reed Whitesell, of Holland Consulting Planners, took the podium to explain the process by which certain houses in the town have been lifted because of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In 1997, following Hurricane Fran, 238 houses in Belhaven were lifted above flood level.
O’Neal said that Whitesell had failed to respond to a public-records request the mayor had submitted more than five weeks ago regarding three properties in the town.
O’Neal said that he was not ready to disclose the reason he had made the public-records request.
Councilman Charles Boyette disagreed with O’Neal, saying past elevation projects have been beneficial to the town.
Citing Belhaven as a standard for both national and international disaster mitigation, Johnson openly challenged that O’Neal had told town residents they would have their houses raised in the event of another major storm.
O’Neal said the accusation was “just not true.”
In preparation for possible future flooding in the town, Whitesell encouraged residents to apply for the 2008 pre-disaster mitigation program by calling (252) 946-0877.