BAY, AR (KAIT) - A Region 8 Mayor is working to get his town's flood maps updated before his citizens drown in debt.
Mayor Darrell Kirby of Bay will join members of the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce on a trip to Washington, D.C.
Kirby said he's working to get the new FEMA map signed because he believes his town should be out of the flood zone.
"We were put in during 1986 during a preliminary map. They signed the final maps in 1991, which started the city to adopt an ordinance in 1992 to put the Bay residents in the flood zone," Kirby said. "That means if the city opted out, then no bank would give the city a loan to build a house here in Bay. So, Bay had to pretty much adopt a flood zone ordinance, which has been in effect since 1992."
That 1991 map put the entire city of Bay in a flood zone.
"I went back and talked to John Bourdeau Jr. with FEMA," Kirby said. "And we went all the way back to when it first took hold in 1986 and found only one claim. It flooded a shed in the Blalock edition, but a tile under Ditch Street was caved in and that's the only reason it flooded. We've had one claim since 1986, and it was not due to rain water. It was due to a collapsed tile that flooded that little area."
Kirby has lived in Bay since 1977 and has never seen a problem with flooding.
"They said our major flooding sources is Little Bay Ditch and Gum Slough," Kirby said. "I think Bay's concern would be Gum slough, but I've never seen it get up over its banks. Little Bay Ditch, to my knowledge, I have never seen water back up from Little Bay to Bay. Never seen it."
Kirby said a new map is on its way.
"We know there is going to be a new map signed," Kirby said. "FEMA says hopefully by the end of this year. I'm going to Washington to talk to our Congressmen and our Senators to see if they can push that map to be signed earlier. And get our final map going since we have not had an updated map since 1991 here in Craighead County."
Kirby said Bay has lost business development projects because it's in a flood zone.
"We have major contractors and builders that will call," Kirby said. "They ask for permits to build in the city of Bay. And their final question is 'Are you in flood zone?' We'll say yes, and they'll go, 'humph'. We do have people come build and they'll have to build out of the flood zone. The base will be elevated, or they'll say they don't want to deal with building in a flood zone and paying that rate."
Kirby said paying flood insurance has been financially draining on families and businesses.
"There was a FEMA hike rate back two years ago," Kirby said. "Flood insurance went up 18% and has caused a major strain on people that want to build commercial buildings or residential housing or anything in Bay that has to pay that yearly fee. If they don't build their house out of the flood zone and do a LOMR (Letter of Map Revision) to get out and opt out of the flood zone payment, they'll end up having to pay insurance on a yearly rate. And it's very straining. I pay $1100 a year. I know how it is. My flood insurance is more than my house insurance a year."
Kirby said they had an 11-inch rain two weeks ago followed by 7 inches just two days after that and had no flooding.
"It's a strain," Kirby said. "Because that's what we're trying to do is get our town to grow. To get us out of flood zone. Get our town to grow, get our school to grow. That is our main concern is the citizens bringing more infrastructure to Bay, residential housing to Bay and having our school grow."
Kirby said he was able to view the new preliminary maps back in November of 2017 and he said it appeared that a lot of Bay would be lowered, and a lot of Bay would be out of the flood zone.
However, this was not the final map.
He said he hoped his visit to Washington will get the ball rolling quicker and relieve the financial burden on Bay citizens.
For more information about the city of Bay, click here.
For additional information about FEMA, click here.