Sageville trailer park demolition comes 3 years after flood - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sageville trailer park demolition comes 3 years after flood

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Crews work on demolishing Sageville's flood-damaged trailer park Monday morning Crews work on demolishing Sageville's flood-damaged trailer park Monday morning
SAGEVILLE (KWWL) -

Dozens of people displaced after catastrophic flooding finally have some closure.

Valley Hill Court Trailer Park in Sageville is getting demolished, nearly three years after flash flooding left many units completely uninhabitable.

The disaster happened overnight, between July 27 and 28 of 2011. Up to 15 inches of rain fell on much of Dubuque County and areas of nearby Wisconsin and Illinois within a 24-hour period.

Valley Hill Court Trailer Park had to be evacuated by boat.

Half of the park had flood damage so severe, the people who lived there could not salvage their homes. All 37 units in the park, even the ones on higher ground, sustained some degree of flood damage.

Dana Fessler bought her mobile home in 2005. She lived on the half of the park that was hit hardest. She now owns a home in Dubuque, but she says the past three years have been trying.

"I just drove down and saw the remnants of my old home, and of course it was very sad," Fessler said late Monday afternoon, but added, "I'm very happy with my circumstances now."

She said with flooding problems happening more frequently in that area, being forced to move out may have been for the best, ultimately.

"The water just kept getting worse and worse," she said. "There wasn't really much else we could do to prevent flooding."

On Monday, crews with Lansing Brothers Construction were on site, in the process of demolishing every single trailer. They started last Wednesday and co-owner Chad Lansing said he anticipates completing the job by Friday, weather permitting.

Sageville mayor Don Recker said the loss of the park means Sageville's pre-flood population of about 200 people dropped by some 40 percent. Since the city of Sageville is so small, virtually all those people relocated elsewhere.

"Yes, it's very sad for the people, I mean, this was a close location to town," Recker said, as Sageville shares a border with Dubuque. "They had easy access to town, and I'm sure some of them got located a little farther away and now they're going to have to have a longer commute."

The entire project - from property acquisition to total demolition - is costing $2.5 million, according to East Central Intergovernmental Association community development director Mark Schneider.

75 percent of that is coming from the federal government, through FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant, he said. 10 percent is coming from the state. The remaining 15 percent is supposed to come from the city, but since neither the small town of Sageville nor the displaced residents can shoulder that financial burden, it's coming, instead, from a Community Development Block Grant through the state.

"It's a long time coming," Recker said. "We're just glad this comes to a closure."

Schneider said of the 37 mobile home-owners, 31 of them opted into the buyout. All of those individuals received money for the acquisition of their trailer, based on the structure's appraised pre-flood value. On average, Schneider said, that value ranged from $1,500 to $6,000, though some people received more than that.

Separate from that money, people also received up to $22,500, which went specifically toward buying or renting a new place to live - something everyone in the park had to do.

Some people, who had sustained lighter flood damage, continued to live in their mobile homes at the park until mid-spring, when the buyouts officially came through.

Once the trailer park is demolished, the city of Sageville, which now owns the property, plans on leasing the land to the Dubuque County Conservation Board for parking and camping along the nearby Heritage Trail.

Brian Preston is executive director of the Dubuque County Conservation Board. He said he'll be able to convert the demolished trailer park into a campground with "minimal investment," as the electrical infrastructure is already in place.

Preston said the situation is "sad for the residents that were out there," but he added, "this  will be a great (recreational) asset...With pretty minimal investment, we'll be able to provide some high-quality service."

With the growing popularity of the Heritage Trail and Heritage Pond, he said, the area could use more parking space. He also added the nearest campground is several miles from the trail, so adding one alongside it, on the former trailer park land, would be a great asset for people who use the trail.

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