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Buyouts of landslide victims to begin soon in Colorado Springs

Officials to distribute nearly $6 million

Federal money arrives to help...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - More than two years after a rainy spring caused landslides that damaged dozens of homes in west Colorado Springs, officials will soon begin determining which victims should be compensated first.

The Colorado Springs City Council, during its Tuesday meeting, approved receiving nearly $6 million from FEMA to acquire the worst of 27 damaged properties qualifying for aid.

Gordon Brenner, of the city's emergency management office, said the selection process will start soon.

"The city is hiring a forensic engineering company," he said.  "This company will come in with civil engineers and structural engineers to evaluate the properties.  The most damaged will move to the top of the list."

Brenner said eligible homeowners must pay a 25 percent matching amount of the money they receive from FEMA.

"Each homeowner will get no more than 70 percent of the value of their property after demolition costs and other related costs," he said.  "The money can't be spread out among all the victims.  We have to determine who has the most damage.  We'll start later this year.  My guess is it'll take a couple of months."

Brenner said it will take between $16 million to $20 million to acquire property from all affected homeowners.

"We're still trying to find more funding to help them," he said.  "This is the only help available to them."

Several affected homeowners, Brenner said, have had additional landslide damage this year.

"It's because of gravity and because we had a wet summer," he said.  "That's why it's important to evaluate these homes and get the most updated information."

In a related matter, Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities will share the cost of a $500,000 study of one landslide zone, known as the Upper Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

"The Colorado Geological Survey recommended that we do the study," said Bret Waters, the city's deputy chief of staff.  "We hired an expert contractor who will put instruments into the ground and monitor the size and movement of the landslide."

Waters said the study could last as long as two years.

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