Elderly tenants still facing issues after EKY flooding

More than six months have passed since the deadly eastern Kentucky floods, and while the water has gone down, some people are still trapped in their homes.
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 10:44 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BREATHITT COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - More than six months have passed since the deadly eastern Kentucky floods, and while the water has gone down, some people are still trapped in their homes.

An apartment complex in Breathitt County hasn’t had a working elevator since the flood, leaving the elderly tenants practically stuck on upper floors without an easy way to get down.

Kathy Alberts’ elevator is quite literally pushing her buttons.

Her ticket to the first floor of Federal Place Apartments washed out by last July’s floods and is not fixed.

“It’s just totally aggravating,” said Kathy. “I can’t mail my mail, and I do a lot of birthday cards and all this.”

Kathy and her elderly neighbors depend on their elevator. She uses a walker to get around, so unless her son comes to help her get down these steps, she’s stuck.

“I’m used to being by myself because I’ve been that way since 2006, so I do stay busy. But I would like to have a human voice every now and then,” said Kathy.

She keeps a good sense of humor, but there are times she gets frustrated, feeling like she and her neighbors are forgotten.

“First, it was a little bit of an adventure. But then it got to the point where it was aggravating, then totally frustrated, and now I am angry,” Kathy said. “I mean, we deserve better than this.”

AU Associates, based in Lexington, manages the building. They tell WKYT that red tape halted the process when FEMA denied half their claim, including the elevator.

While appealing the decision, management has secured state funding to cover the remaining costs. However, notices, comment periods, and other steps must be followed first.

“People need to realize these are families. These are lives,” Kathy said. “They’re totally thrown into chaos. It seems like the government they don’t have compassion or empathy. All they have are forms and red tape.”

Kathy realizes she is one of the lucky ones because she still has a place to call home. But she’s sad to know there are families facing the same struggles to rebuild their homes.

“FEMA, or whoever needs to cut the red tape and get people their money now. I mean, their lives have been thrown... I can’t imagine losing everything. I don’t think I could recover from it. I really don’t,” Kathy said.

A detailed letter will be going out to tenants at Federal Place Apartments on Wednesday saying:

“I wanted to update you on the status of our flood claim and search to find additional funding to repair The Federal Place Apartments after the flood this past summer. While the property had $302,000 in Flood Insurance coverage, we learned 90 days after the flood that FEMA would only pay less than half of the claim; the rest was denied. The flood insurance proceeds did help us 1) completely clean up the ground level after the flood and remove all damaged components 2) make all necessary repairs to the fire alarm and electrical system that were damaged, and 3) restore the building access control system.

However, FEMA determined that the elevator cab, which serves the accessible level of the building entrance would not be covered, nor would the replacement of the two apartments, community room, building restroom and common laundry area. Our staff has been working diligently since that time to try to secure additional funds to return the elevator to service and rebuild the ground floor apartments and amenities.

Fortunately, the Department of Local Government has indicated that there is funding available to cover the full replacement and repair costs, but there is a lengthy timeline of federal notice and procurement required to access these funds. We are currently awaiting environmental clearance that can be submitted no earlier than February 10th. Once the 15-day comment period is published, we can procure the elevator repair contract and place the order for replacement parts.

We are so sorry this process is taking so long. We have contacted multiple agencies, legislators, and media outlets trying to express our collective frustration of the limitations of the National Flood Insurance Program and the hardship this condition has been on our elderly residents. Many of those roads led to dead ends with no assistance available. We are committed to finding a solution and we greatly appreciate your patience. We will keep you posted with any additional information as it becomes available.”