Commissioners applying for grant to help families with sinkholes

STURGIS, S.D. (KBHB) – Meade County Commissioners today approved beginning the process of applying for a Hazard Mitigation Grant to help more than a dozen families forced out of their homes due to sinkholes.

Those sinkholes in the Northdale area opened up earlier this month, and an investigation has determined that the development on E. Daisy Drive was built on top of an old gypsum mine.

Jennifer Sietsema, Executive Director of the Black Hills Council of Local Governments was on hand to explain the HMG program.

She says the program would provide a buyout of affected homes and requires $1.2 million in infrastructure damage. However, the program is competitive, not guaranteed and will only pay 75-percent of the homes value pre-sinkhole. That means homeowners would be responsible for any mortgage amount left after the 75-percent buyout.

Sietsema also says the deadline to apply is coming fast – July 31.

Meade County would be the applicant filing for the relief because the housing subdivision is not located in an incorporated town or area.

As of now, the FEMA program appears to be the only viable option for affected homeowners. Sietsema says any statute of limitations have expired because the subdivision was approved in 2002.

Commissioners have reached out to the state, but Commission Chairman Ted Seaman says they haven’t gotten much help.

In today’s motion to approve, commissioners moved to have the Black Hills Council of Local Governments work with the affected homeowners to submit for funding under the FEMA plan. Homeowners will need to sign an MOU, or memorandum of understanding. The county will also budge $30,000 to handle initial appraisals and engineering work.

The Department of Transportation, in the meantime, has hired an engineering firm to investigate the a section of I-90 that may go over a portion of the mine.