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.
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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, 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
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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