After nearly two years, Colorado Springs landslide victims finally received good news Wednesday: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded $5.9 million to the city to acquire houses demolished or severely damaged by landslides caused by record rains in 2015.
The Lower Skyway and Broadmoor Bluffs areas were particularly hard-hit, and most of the 27 homeowners who qualify for assistance live in those neighborhoods.
Dennis Cripps, whose house on Broadmoor Bluffs was rendered veritably uninhabitable, said he was delighted by the news.
"I'm feeling great about it. The disappointment part of it is, that ($5.9 million) is what it was two years ago," Cripps said. "It just seems like it's taken forever. But it feels like it's headway. I also feel good that even though there's not enough money for everybody now, they're still going after more grants. And that tells me they're going to try to satisfy everybody on the list."
Gordon Brenner, the city's recovery coordinator, advised the landslide victims by email that the city staff will seek City Council permission on Aug. 21 to spend the $5.9 million.
"Please remember: $5.9 million will not be enough to acquire all the properties on the list," Brenner wrote. "We have already submitted a notice of intent to file for another round of grant funding, and will continue to seek additional funding until all options are exhausted."
Brenner said next steps include:
◘ Searching the title history on each property "back to patent" to ensure the property has no encumbrances.
◘ Reviewing proposals from qualified appraisers who can determine each home's pre-disaster value as of May 1, 2015.
◘ Choosing an acquisition contractor who will ensure all paperwork is processed correctly during the home sales.
◘ Releasing requests for proposals for companies to abate hazardous materials, such as asbestos and lead, and demolish the houses.
The 27 homeowners are on a priority list that has not been released to them or the public, but owners of two condemned houses in Lower Skyway and the hardest-hit homes in Broadmoor Bluffs have been advised that they're in the top tier of that list.
No homeowner is expecting full reimbursement, however. From the start, the city has advised that the owners will receive a maximum of 75 percent of the total project cost - including expenses for appraisals, demolition, title searches and the like. The city is applying "in-kind services" and staff time toward the required 25 percent grant match.
The homes that were hardest-hit sustained damage totaling at least $6.4 million, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office.