Local News

Princeville Residents Hesitant to Accept FEMA Buyouts

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PRINCEVILLE — State officials plan to deploy several dozen counselors throughout eastern North Carolina in the coming weeks to help residents appeal federal aid decisions and explore options for rebuilding their flood-damaged homes.

Residents in some towns, like historic Princeville, are hesitant to accept FEMA buyouts for fear it will destroy their community.

Claude Johnson, Jr., who lives in one of the hardest towns hit by Hurricane Floyd and its flooding, says everything in his home was lost. He would like for FEMA to buy out his home, but right now, the government agency cannot.

The town of Princeville is one of the only communities hit by flooding that has not participated in the buyout program.

"It's got to be my choice to do what I want to do over here. I can't decide what next door's going to do," says Johnson.

Princeville Mayor Delia Perkins says she has not refused FEMA's assistance.

Perkins says the town council's first priority has been to restore water, sewer and electric services. She also worries that FEMA money would take a long time to get to Princeville and could leave many vacant lots in the historic town. Princeville was one of the first places that free slaves could go.

"Not everybody would consider buyouts," Perkins says. "You may have three houses on one street, two houses on another street, and once that happens, you can't put anything else back there."

Residents say that because of the history of the 114-year-old town, residents want to stay. Residents such as Bertha Barlowe who do not want FEMA to buy their property.

"If we can move back and rebuild, and God blesses us to rebuild, we're going to do it. I don't know who wants to sell out, but I don't," Barlowe says.

FEMA says there is no deadline for municipalities to apply for emergency aid.

The town of Princeville will hold an information session 7 p.m. Monday at Edgecombe County College to try to answer questions that residents may have.