The process of moving some of Madison's homeowners out of the city's flood-prone areas moved forward this week with federal and state officials announcing that about $1.15 million was available for 12 purchasing properties in Madison and the city commissioners deciding to waive some fees for the removal of structures from those properties.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and S.D. Office of Emergency Management announced that FEMA had provided $3.3 million to four South Dakota cities to purchase flood-prone land and remove structures from their floodplain. The cities are Madison, Sioux Falls, Dell Rapids and Yankton.

Mayor Marshall Dennert proposed during Monday's commission meeting that the city waive its demolition and excavation fees for the property owners involved in the FEMA hazard mitigation program. Dennert told the commissioners that he was interested in having the city assist the property owners in paying the local share of the structure-removal projects.

FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program helps communities acquire property so that property owners can relocate from high-risk areas and avoid future property-damage claims related to flooding. After the relocations, the local communities are expected to take possession of the properties in perpetuity.

FEMA's grant program pays for 75% of the purchase of each of the properties. State government has decided to provide about $443,500 -- about 10% of the total program -- to the four communities as the state's share of the mitigation program. The local communities are expected to pay the remaining costs of 15%.

According to Dennert, the city has worked with six property owners having six properties. He said the remaining property owners may have worked solely with First District Association of Local Governments to submit their applications.

The city commissioners decided not to waive the tipping fees for the property owners at the city's restricted-use site. The restricted-use site does accept loads of construction debris at a cost of $12 per cubic yard. Gary Gonyo, Madison's streets and solid waste director, said the amount of debris varies with each demolished property, but a typical single-family home will often fill four to five truckloads with debris.

During mid-January, the Madison City Commission was informed by Todd Kays, executive director of First District Association of Local Governments, that his organization would help with the administration of FEMA hazard mitigation grants to 11 Madison property owners with 12 pieces of property. First District could assist the property owners with preparing documents, property acquisitions and closings, and the project closeout.

Through a letter of understanding, Kays had outlined that First District would charge the city for services that would not amount to more than 5% of the total project cost. After providing compensation to First District, Kays stated that the city could submit the district's claim to state Office of Emergency Management for reimbursement.

In 2020, Madison officials had agreed to serve as a sponsor to city property owners who would submit applications to FEMA's hazard mitigation program. Dennert told the commissioners that the city and its property owners had three years to complete their work in removing structures and turning over the flood-prone property to the city.

According to Dennert, the property owners can back out of the mitigation program at any time before signing the closing papers. After the signings, the property owners should receive 85% of the value of their property appraisals. Then, the owners are expected to pay for expenses such as utility disconnects, structure relocation and/or demolition.

The property owners are responsible for any expenses over and above the mitigation project estimates. If the costs are less than the estimates, the property owners are expected to return the extra money to the federal government.