THAYER -- A difference of opinion and some finger pointing highlighted the Thayer City Council meeting May 9.
Thayer resident Joe Barbee contacted City Hall and asked to be on the May council agenda with concerns related to floodplain revisions in the city. An unexpected family emergency kept Barbee from attending the meeting.
Ralph Scogins, also of Thayer, filled in for Barbee with some written questions from Barbee for the mayor, council and Thayer Emergency Management Director Mark Arnold.
Scogins said his and Barbee's insurance on their property had risen greatly due to the city's revised floodplan.
He asked the council why city residents were not notified of the revised plan. He said a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) official said the revision should have been posted in the newspaper.
Scogins said SEMA officials told Barbee that meetings were scheduled and held at Alton and Thayer regarding the revision of the floodplain and no one from the city was there.
Mayor Allen Deckard tried to explain the city's position on the matter. He said he was aware the floodplain had been revised although he was not sure when or why.
He said approximately two years ago the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had sent the city maps in which the floodplain had expanded some 20 to 30 feet from where it was before.
"Mark and I went over the map and and made corrections like FEMA instructed us to do. We realized then the 20- to 30-foot increase was way too much. We sent the map back to FEMA and they sent it back to us again without making any changes," the mayor said.
He said he and Arnold made their corrections, again telling FEMA the floodplain was too high. "We sent the map back again. When the final maps arrived in our office last year they were the same as the first map we received. No changes were ever made," Deckard said.
Arnold addressed some of the concerns and accusations Scogins had voiced. He said he had never been informed of any meeting at either Alton or Thayer regarding floodplain revision.
"The city had always operated on a floodplain map study done by the Corps of Engineers in the mid-1970s. That study showed there were areas in the city prone to flooding. Those two areas would be the Two Mile Creek area and the area near the Warm Fork River," Arnold said.
He said the Corps looked at the history and the amount of feet from the creek bank that could suffer damage.
"The '70s study was used to make the maps. The maps were published, and that is what the city operated on for a floodplain until the recent revision," Arnold said.
Scogins said all the mayor had to do to fix the problem is write a letter stating his concerns.
Deckard said Arnold would be attending a meeting in Rolla later this month to understand the situation better.
On May 11 Barbee said he had spoken to the top SEMA officials in the state regarding the floodplain issue. "They told me there were meetings in January 2005 at Alton and no one from Thayer attended. They said it was for all the communities in the county. They said there was also a meeting in Thayer around the same time," Barbee said.
Deckard said he and Municipal Clerk Rosie Simpson attended a workshop or two at the courthouse in Alton.
Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren said he did not remember the floodplain meeting at Alton. "I remember Allen and Rosie being here on possibly more than one occasion last year," Warren said.
Warren said a representative from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a representative of the State Emergency Management Agency attended the meeting. "My memory of that meeting and our minutes from that meeting do not show there was any discussion about revision of the floodplain at Thayer or any other community in the county," Warren said.
Northern Commissioner Buddy Wright and Southern Commissioner John Wrenfrow were also at the meeting and do not recall it being about floodplain revision. The meeting was held Jan. 31, 2005.
Barbee said he thinks the city officials need to realize how many people have been affected by their actions. "They should have let us know what is going on. Our insurance rates have risen and our property value has decreased because our property is now in a floodplain," he said.
Barbee lives on Wyndotte Street. He said if proper action had been taken the situation would not have escalated this far.
SEMA Director Randy Scribner never returned a call to The South Missourian News.
Former state Rep. Don Koller now works for SEMA in the Homeland Security Department. He suggested contacting Terry Toler, SEMA Region G area coordinator, regarding the floodplain issue. He said the state is divided into SEMA regions across the state and Oregon County is in Region G, just like it is in Troop G of the Highway Patrol.
On May 12 Toler defended Arnold. "Mark has been trying to get the situation in Thayer straightened out. This has not been his doing," he said.
"Mark has been in contact with SEMA and he is trying to get the floodplain revision revised," the coordinator said.
Toler also said that he was aware Arnold had been in contact with the SEMA director and assistant director. "Their conversations have apparently been up and down. This is not his fault. What Arnold says regarding the situation is the way it is," Toler said.
Barbee said Deckard needs to write the letter as he was instructed.
"I will learn at the May 22 meeting in Rolla what to do. I am going to try and find out why the maps changed and what we can do about it. I am going to find out if we do need to write a letter and to whom. I am going to find out what to say in the letter. I am going to request that someone come to Thayer and talk to our elected officials and explain to them what has happened," Arnold said.
Arnold has served as emergency management director in Thayer since 1989.