Do right thing for flood victims if county erred

If Mecklenburg County dropped the ball in getting insurance coverage for some residents flooded out of their apartments last week, the county should pay the costs of that mistake. That's the right and responsible thing to do.

Thank goodness, Mecklenburg County commissioners' Chairman Jennifer Roberts gets it. On Sunday she said that if the county sat on paperwork that would have had insurance coverage in place for flood victims, “then we absolutely need to come through and treat these people as if they were insured. I believe we would have to follow the terms of the policy.”

We believe so, too.

As of Sunday, county officials said they'd heard from about 10 residents of Cavalier Apartments, where heavy rains brought rising waters that engulfed ground level apartments. But there could be up to 30, according to residents.

The county owns Cavalier Apartments. It sits in a flood plain, and in June, the county paid nearly $10 million, mostly in federal money, to buy the east Charlotte apartments. Residents were already being relocated so the buildings could be torn down in mid-2009 for a park.

Several residents thought they had county-paid flood insurance to cover their losses while they remained. The county had offered the coverage to them for a year, at the county's expense. But residents learned last week that their paperwork hadn't cleared a 30-day waiting period – although they'd signed documents in the spring or early summer.

If the delay in coverage is the fault of the county or insurer, the residents should not be penalized. They should be compensated as the terms of the policy outline.

Residents are skeptical. “It sounds good,” said resident Chris Jeannot of Ms. Roberts' statement. “But we've heard so many promises before.” No one has taken responsibility so far, he said, so maybe a court will have to settle the matter.

It shouldn't come to that if a review shows residents weren't responsible for the delay in policies going into effect. If that's the case, the county must take responsibility – or get their insurer to.

Commissioner Roberts showed leadership by vowing to make good if the county sat on the paperwork. Those must not be empty words. Mother Nature has already dealt these residents a blow. The county shouldn't add to their woes.