Grant to provide relief for flood victims

Local News
watseka flood mitigation grant

WATSEKA, Ill. (WCIA) — They city is going to help people whose homes were damaged from last year’s record-breaking flooding. 

Watseka was given a $5 million grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to buy those homes. Tuesday night, leaders held a forum to answer people’s questions about the process of buying properties. It will start in the next few weeks. 

Cindy Henry was visiting her mom when the water began to rise in 2018. Like many in the city, their house was wrecked inside and out. The devastation goes beyond walls and floorboards. This is where she grew up.

Henry says, “We built this house. I sanded the doors and watched them dig the basement. My grandfather was a carpenter.” 

Now, a year after the city applied for the grant, the money finally came through.

Mayor John Allhands says, “This is going to put some money in their pockets so they can get a clean start.” 

An appraiser will asses the value of 65 homes. Then they’ll move on to rentals and investment properties. The city will buy and demolish them. The IDNR grant will pay to reimburse 100% of that.

Mayor Allhands says,”There’s a good chance we’re going to lose population over this. But what I’m looking at is that some folks have been in limbo for close to a year-and-a-half.”  

This creates another option for people who are struggling.

“Flood insurance is very expensive and a lot of folks didn’t carry it,” says Allhands, “so if they don’t go with our program then they’ll either have to elevate the home or move the home.” 

Henry will be accepting their offer to sell her mom’s home.

She says, “I’ve had so many expenses, and I’ll have more expenses to clean out the house. I had originally planned on moving here with her.”

Plans changed after her mom died of cancer earlier this year, and now it’s time to move on.

Henry says, “It’s really hard to think about letting it go, but I feel like I’m probably making the best decision because I don’t want to live here worrying about it.” 

Assessments will begin in the next few weeks. This summer city officials hope to start demolishing homes. It could take between 2 – 4 years to complete. 

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