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Muckersville, Population 1

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Disparity, USA

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By Joyce Godwin Grubbs

February 15, 2010 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cable Muse Network, LLC) – A hardworking married couple, Virgil Henley (70 years old) and his wife Janice (68) still work full time in their barbershop of more than forty years. The Henley’s story was an “American Dream”, except the ending is going drastically awry.

Virgil and Janice Henley (CableMuse.com) Joyce Godwin Grubbs
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June 2008 a 500 year flood hit. It wasn’t until October they found out that their contract to buy residents living in the Henley properties had been given $28,800 from FEMA, though in one case the “buyer” had only made one  payment and another had less than $700 equity in the house. City officials in Cedar Rapids told the Henley’s that the person buying on contract at the time of the flood is considered the owner of a property, not the contract seller. That is a hard lesson to the Henley’s and the other 81 property owners who have contracted to buy properties. They are left hanging; waiting to be called in for buyout settlements. Their status is the same as a “speculator” who comes in after a disaster and buys up land to make a profit.  The Henley’s had been told they would be bought out at pre-flood assessment, and now the contract buyers took their $28,800 and walked away from the property. The Henley’s were only offered $5000.

The Henley’s had four houses on contract to sell. That means they would receive $20,000 dollars for their $207,822 properties (pre-flood assessments).Their son is not much better off with a $5000 buy out for a house that had a pre-flood value of $66,903.

The Henley’s have engaged a lawyer but are having trouble getting information. FEMA refuses to provide any information about the buyouts due to the privacy act, and when they try to contact the buyers involved, who got the money, the buyers refuse to talk to the Henley’s by phone or make contact. If the buyers who got the FEMA money come forward to make a claim to the city for “City buyouts”, the Henley’s could make a claim on the early FEMA payouts. This is because the Henley’s got zero dollars in the FEMA monies.

For Virgil and Janice, their financial crisis deepens each day. All they can do is stand at their posts in their barbershop and tend to business, with her tolerating standing on two hip replacements and him enduring work after two knee replacements. The customer traffic for that area has fallen off as well, due to the flood and the shop’s location. At 70 and 68, they are beginning to wonder if their American Dream was a pipe dream. Janice makes every city council meeting on Wednesday nights and pleads her case. “I feel like a beggar, and I shouldn’t have to beg, but we’re running out of time.”

Linda Seger (CableMuse.com) Joyce Godwin Grubbs

Linda Seger, flood victim advocate, contacted Cable Muse Network and she expressed her continuing concern that the hardship cases like the Henley’s who continue to lose $3700 a month should be eligible for immediate help from the city. The 1% sales tax money levied to help the recovering victims still sits untouched with well over six million dollars in the coffers. Mayor Ron Corbett has been trying to get the council to move on the hardship cases. Both he and Ms. Seger recognize there are still 81 property owners who had contract to buy properties who have yet to be called in to settle with the city.

“It is a lesson in what goes on before, during and after a disaster to people in America, overcome by the event are those who think that the Government will really help them. It does not take long for those in control to allow greed, ambition and personal agenda to take advantage of the situation to take over. It happens when there is no strong, moral leadership to stand for the people who have suffered the loss. Even now almost 20 months later, we are a divided city; those who were directly hit by the disaster and those who were watching from the dry comfort of their homes. Today, I find people that are quick to "blame" us for living along the river. Calling us stupid, foolish, and deserving of what we got, they fail to accept that each of us is just one disaster away from being US.  In our lifetime, odds are in our favor it will not happen but no one is exempt. Throughout my 65 years, I have lived through four tornados, 1 grass fire, one serious blizzard that snowed us in for four days (1971). I mean really snowed in streets not plowed, no electricity for four days,  2 severe ice storms that cut power for days, 1 toxic fire that required evacuation of large area of city, serious drought for 2 years,  1 minor earthquake, a minor flood 1993 and epic flood 2008.  This does not even count the non-natural disasters we suffer from [today].”

– Ms. Linda Seger to Cable Muse Network

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Virgil Henley took one last “tongue in cheek” poke at the critics of the flood victims fighting for their rights. He had a professional sign put on one of his properties that was tagged with the notorious fluorescent paint tags.”Muckersville pop, 1” resonates with the citizens of the area. Muckerville was land where a hundred cabins once stood along the river. Whenever high water and floods hit, the residents would “muck” out the cabins and continue on, thus it became known as “Muckersville”. Now, in the dwindling Cedar Rapids neighborhood that once proudly stood, “Muckersville pop.1” represents Virgil’s fears and his political defiance.

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