County does right thing, treats flood victims fairly

Two weeks ago, we urged Mecklenburg County to do the right thing and honor insurance claims if the county dropped the ball getting coverage for residents flooded out of Cavalier Apartments. On Tuesday, county officials said they will. Good.

After flood waters seeped into their apartments following torrential rains Aug. 27, those residents had every reason to believe they had insurance to cover their losses. The county had bought the apartments as part of their voluntary floodplain buyout program. It had agreed to provide insurance to residents who filled out paperwork requesting it.

Imagine residents' surprise when the insurer said they had no coverage because the paperwork had not been sent in time. The paperwork had not cleared the 30-day waiting period before the policy could take effect.

The residents cried foul, and rightly so. It wasn't their mistake, and they shouldn't have to pay for it. Said resident Christopher Jeannot: “We're not looking for a handout . … We're hard-working people . ... We want the insurance policy that we signed up for weeks, maybe months ago.”

On Tuesday, Mecklenburg County's Storm Water Services staffers said they had reviewed what happened and that nearly all the families who thought they were insured will be covered. Three of the 28 families won't be because they either didn't sign the paperwork or signed too late to be covered. Of the rest, four will be covered by flood insurance and 21 will be treated as if they had insurance coverage.

The insurer and two consultant firms will pay the bulk of the costs. The county's share is not expected to exceed about $36,000.

Most of the 192 units at Cavalier are already vacant. Residents were being relocated before the flooding so the buildings could be torn down in mid-2009 for a park. After the flooding left 96 units uninhabitable, all leases were terminated. All residents must be gone by today. County consultants are continuing to provide relocation assistance.

After the flooding, county commissioners' chair Jennifer Roberts played an important role making sure residents were treated fairly. She pledged 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.”

That's the response of a leader. She and the county now have made good on that pledge. It was the right and responsible thing to do.