Effingham County officials are considering an ordinance that would make those who own property in a floodplain eligible for federal flood insurance.

While the County Board’s Legislative Committee took no action on the proposed ordinance Monday, board Chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg asked committee members to review the ordinance with an eye toward consideration next month.

Supervisor of Assessments Jeff Simpson said the proposed ordinance is based upon a similar ordinance in Jasper County.

“We didn’t reinvent the wheel,” Simpson said. “It’s at least a place to start.”

County officials have said an ordinance is necessary for property owners in the county to qualify for the federal flood insurance program.

The ordinance would have several purposes, including preventing “unwise” developments that would increase flood or drainage hazards to others, lessening taxpayer burden for flood control and relief, maintaining property values by minimizing the potential for areas blighted by flood and making federally subsidized flood insurance available.

The ordinance would likewise require those building in a floodplain to place structures on a level far enough above ground to withstand flooding.

County officials began considering the floodplain issue in the summer of 2008 after several area residents complained about their inability to secure flood insurance. The board formed an ad hoc committee that included public officials, real estate professionals and others.

But the committee couldn’t reach a consensus, with some arguing such an ordinance would infringe on private property rights, as well as cost county taxpayers money for participation in the federal program.

“The committee came up with nothing concrete, so it’s our decision,” Willenburg said.

Simpson said after Monday’s meeting that those who live in a floodplain can only now insure their property by hiring a surveyor to determine whether or not the property is actually prone to flooding on a regular basis, as opposed to being in a 100- or 500-year floodplain.

Simpson added current floodplain maps developed from topographic maps in the 1970s don’t necessarily tell an accurate story.

“About 80 percent of properties in the Lake Sara area are actually in a floodplain, according to the maps we have now,” he said. “It appears, obviously, that some of those maps are incorrect.”

Pam Braun, Simpson’s chief deputy, said the office receives several calls a week from those wondering if a particular piece of property is in a floodplain.

While the Legislative Committee took no action on the floodplain issue Monday, the committee did agree to accept Simpson’s resignation effective Dec. 31. After nearly 30 years as supervisor of assessments, Simpson told the board it is financially advantageous for him to retire before his current term expires next Nov. 30.

The committee recommended Braun be appointed to fill the remainder of Simpson’s term. Braun is already running for a full term in next fall’s general election.

In other action Monday, the committee recommended several appointments, including:

• Nick Althoff to the Emergency Telephone System (911) Board.

• Sheriff’s Department Cpl. William Frese to the Liquor Commission.

• Board member Don Althoff as the county’s representative to the Counties of Illinois Risk Management Agency (CIRMA) board. Willenburg was named alternate.

The committee agreed that State’s Attorney Ed Deters should remain the county’s chief Freedom of Information Act officer, though both he and Willenburg suggested each department head be versed in changes to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, effective Jan. 1.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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