Tybee Island explores hazard mitigation grant to minimize future storm damge

Tybee Island's City Manager, Dr. Shawn Gillen introduced a hazard mitigation grant to homeowners on Wednesday. (Credit: Shelbey Roberts)

Since Hurricane Irma slammed Tybee Island, city officials are exploring new ways to prevent future storm damage.

"We're trying to do what we can to help them out as best as we can," said Mayor Jason Buelterman. "Dealing with insurance adjusters, dealing with flood insurance issues is difficult. So optimally people could raise their homes and avoid some of these issues if we had a similar storm in the future."

But the process to elevate homes above ground costs lots of money. So, the city is looking to FEMA for funding through the hazard mitigation grant program. If approved for the grant, Tybee Island would front 85 percent of the cost to raise the home, and then be reimbursed by FEMA.

"We will determine as a city the cost of each individual home via a structural engineer and that determines the grant amount for that specific home," stated City Manager, Dr. Shawn Gillen.

If the city engineer says the home is stable enough to be raised and the cost to do so is $175,000 or less, the homeowner automatically qualifies for the grant money.

After his second round of flooding, homeowners like Anthony Sapone are hoping for the extra funding.

Sapone said, "It is just a nightmare. You have to tear out all of your kitchen cabinets, all of your flooring if you have wood or carpet and very quickly mold and mildew grows."

During Hurricane Matthew, Sapone had about 2 inches of flooding. But during Irma, that rose to one foot.

"Being down here 32 years, we've never gotten flooding like that before," he said.

Tybee Island city council will decide tomorrow whether or not to move forward with the grant application process.

If you're looking for more individual FEMA assistance, you can visit the Southwest Chatham Library, on the second flood, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.