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City of Three Forks moves forward with flood mitigation

With the city on the brink of a $4.15 million FEMA grant, the Three Forks City Council has begun discussion of methods to fund the remaining 25% of the project cost.

During its Aug. 23 meeting, the council received advice from Natural Resources Business Unit Manager for Great West Engineering Jeremiah Theys and attorney Nathan Bilyeu.

Potential methods for securing the funds for the outstanding expenses include taxing residents equally or adjusting the fees levied for commercial and vacant lots.

The council plans to host public hearings on the proposed assessment methods, after passing a resolution of intent at its Sept. 27 meeting. “That would give us a bit more time to work with you folk [the council] on making sure we’re comfortable with that assessment structure and making sure that the numbers make sense for the community,” Theys said during the August meeting.

While taxing all citizens would be the “cleanest” and easiest way to collect the money, according to Bilyeu, Theys told the council that he favored adjusting the fees levied based on the properties use.

Theys explained that commercial properties would financially benefit from the flood mitigation project’s reduction in flood insurance than other properties such as vacant lots. “There’s a substantial savings there,” he said, adding that commercial properties pay more in flood insurance and would cost more to repair in the event of a flood.

Council President Gene Townsend was unsure that either tax assessment method would be fair for everyone in Three Forks; however, he said the council should try to determine a method that was “equitable to the largest majority,” adding that “there’s always going to be some big winners and big losers.”

“I think we want to make it as fair and equitable as possible, but I don’t think it’s possible to make it where everybody is absolutely happy,” Townsend said during the meeting. “I think what we need to look at is the benefit it’s [the Flood Mitigation] going to do to Three Forks.”

Three Forks City Treasurer Kelly Smith told The Voice that if the city’s application passes FEMA’s second round of review, it could receive the award in early 2023. Theys told the Council during its August meeting that he expected the project to get underway by 2024 following the FEMA grant review and engineering.

Once Three Forks completes its flood mitigation project, 1,000 structures will receive reprieve from the effects of flooding and eliminate the need for flood insurance. The Three Forks Area Flood Mitigation Project will also offer benefits in the form of lessened building restriction codes in the current flood area and protection from wildfires and droughts.

Each of these benefits will offer savings to the citizens of Three Forks, offsetting some of the taxes imposed to fund the remaining 25% of the project.

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