Dutchtown going for levee, not buyout

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dutchtown property owners decided to pursue a levee instead of a buyout Friday night at a town meeting.

The poll was 16-7 in favor of the levee and was conducted in the Affordable Furniture store where roughly 25 residents and a few nonresidents attended. Members of the Dutchtown Board of Trustees said they would act in accordance with the majority Friday.

The poll's result comes after Dutchtown residents learned at a Monday meeting that the cost of a permanent levee to protect the village had jumped 36 percent to $1.4 million.

In a buyout, owners would receive 100 percent of their property's preflood value; the federal government would provide 75 percent of the funds, and the village of Dutchtown would provide 25 percent. The bought-out property could then not be used for any substantial construction "till the end of time," said Doyle Parmer, Dutchtown village clerk.

However, according to Angie Crutsinger, chairwoman for the board of trustees, the town could not meet its obligation in a buyout and owners would not receive the full value of their property.

The poll of property owners in attendance was conducted informally. Each had one vote per property deed. According to Parmer, Dutchtown has 42 property owners.

"If you didn't make it tonight, I guess I'm sorry," Parmer said. "Do you want to keep waiting? We got to have a decision."

Supporters of both the levee and the buyout were passionate about their positions.

"I'm staying come hell or high water," said Shirley Moss, a supporter of the levee. "I've lived here 35 years. This is my home, my roots. I can't afford a buyout; our town can't afford that."

Another longtime resident, Carmen Propst, also did not support the buyout.

"I've been here almost 60 years," she said, "I don't want to move."

Imogene Dumey, who moved to Dutchtown in 1979 and lives on the south side of Highway 74 where the worst flooding occurs, supported the buyout.

"I'm getting too old for this," she said. "We got to fight it ourselves over there."

Dumey's son, Charles, expressed concern about his mother's ability to sell her house without a buyout.

"If she could sell her house, she would, but who would buy it?" he said.

Some supporters of the buyout did not believe the town could raise the money for the levee.

"It's totally impractical," Voyann Smith said. "The people in this room will never, ever be able to produce that kind of money. One-point-five million dollars, people. One-point-five million dollars! Where are we going to get the money?"

The population of Dutchtown is 99, according to the 2000 census.

However, most expressed confidence the town would find a solution.

"This town's got to unite no matter what we do," Parmer said.

To date, Dutchtown has raised roughly $500,000 toward the levee project. Crutsinger felt certain the rest of the money could be raised in the coming years and costs could be cut by eliminating things that were not "absolutely necessary" in the levee plan, which she did not specify.

The poll was conducted as residents were preparing for more flooding as heavy rainfall from the Great Plains and upper Midwest makes its way down the Mississippi to the Cape Girardeau area. The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 44.5 feet June 24, its highest level since 2002.

Dutchtown residents planned to meet at 8 a.m. today to lay down sandbags to protect homes.

tthomas@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 197

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