ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County officials plan to start buying out flood-damaged properties by the end of this week.
County supervisors authorized county Attorney Dan Manning to start the process of buying the properties damaged two years ago in Tropical Storm Irene.
There are 40 or so properties in the towns of Jay and Keene that are on the path to being bought out, but county officials plan to start with five to seven, then move on to others in the future.
The county borrowed $800,000 to pay for the properties, about $75,000 of which has gone toward surveys, abstracts and title searches and other things involved in the buyouts, Manning said. The rest of the money will go to buying the properties.
The county expects to be fully reimbursed through money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"The idea is to front the money, then the money comes back," Manning explained to county supervisors Monday.
He said he hopes the reimbursement would come in time to use it for the next round of buyouts, but if not, the county may have to borrow more money temporarily.
The properties that had clear titles got first priority in the process, and the county will work with homeowners who don't have clear titles to clean them up for future buyouts.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas, D-Jay, said he's read about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie complaining about the amount of time it's taking for buyouts from Tropical Storm Sandy in his state. That was only a year ago, while Essex County has been working on it for more than two years.
"Two years is a long time, but that is the normal course of action," Douglas said. "It's a very frustrating process, but we've done our due diligence, and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."