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County officials offer help to flood victims seeking property assessment relief

Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 4:53 p.m. CDT

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Residents who sustained substantial damage to their homes during the April 18 flooding may be eligible for some relief.

The process they'll have to go through to seek reductions in their property assessments, though, will vary on where they live.

Property owners in Lyons Township will have 30 days to file an appeal of their assessment with the Cook County assessor's office starting toward the end of the month, said Maura Kownacki, spokeswoman for Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios. But the deadline for filing for assessment reduction with the assessor's office expired Feb. 28 for people who live in Riverside Township, so they'll have to file an assessment appeal with the Cook County Board of Review, she said.

Berrios will hold outreach sessions in townships throughout Cook County to help property owners understand the process of filing for a reduction in their assessment, Kownacki said. These sessions are being timed to coincide with the period in each township for homeowners to file an appeal to their assessment, she said.

"A property owner who experiences severe damage to his or her home or building as a result of flooding is eligible for an assessment reduction if the damage is substantial enough to adversely affect the property value," according to information from Berrios' office. "The type of damage that would affect the overall value would include, for example, physical or structural damage to the foundation or walls, the flooring in the living area, or central heating and air conditioning units, electrical or plumbing systems, drywall and insulation, and mold-related problems."

Municipal officials said they have been working with residents who experienced substantial flooding during the heavy rains three weeks ago to complete the proper forms in seeking some kind of government assistance.

Brookfield Village Manager Riccardo Ginnex said there are several sections of town that sustained flooding in the recent rainstorm. These include the 3600 block of Forest Avenue, 31st Street and Prairie Avenue, the 3800 block of Grove Avenue, and Washington and Prairie avenues, he said.

"All those are pretty low areas," Ginnex said, noting that they are near Salt Creek. "So far, we've spent about $22,000 in services as a result of the flooding. But we've also been picking up garbage for two weeks, so the amount we spend on this will increase."

Ginnex said representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were scheduled to visit Brookfield last week, but he is not aware if they came.

Peter Scalera, village manager for Riverside, said some of the worst flooding there occurred in homes on West, Groveland and Pine avenues near the Forest Avenue bridge as well as in homes along Maplewood Road that back up to Des Plaines River.

"We did have a number of homes that experienced flooding, but not to the degree of towns like Forest View or Des Plaines," Scalera said. "The Cook County Homeland Security office worked with municipalities. They did a callout the night before the storm came into the area to notify people that a storm was on the way."

Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, D-16th District, of McCook said he has been working with the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to develop a multi-hazard disaster mitigation plan for two years. He said it's crucial that local community leaders understand the process involved for people to receive government help. This has improved over a previous major flood when some people missed a deadline for completing forms.

Tobolski, who also serves as the mayor of McCook, said that effective communication is crucial to ensure that people impacted by natural disasters receive the assistance they need. For this to happen, county officials should continue working with community leaders and the mitigation plan must be completed, he said. Masters told Cook County officials that he intends to finalize his plan by the end of the year, Tobolski said.

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