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FLOODED TOWN MOVING TO HIGHER GROUND

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Hit so hard by last summer's floods that it had to have its meals delivered by boat for 37 days, this no-stoplight town of 330 people is moving to higher ground.

The City Council voted 3-1 this week to accept an offer of nearly $7 million in federal money to move up to 132 houses to vacant land uphill from the flood plain where Chelsea has been for more than 100 years.They'll be joining Mayor Rodney Horrigan and seven other Chelsea families whose houses, on the high side of Otter Creek, got through the floods just fine.

The town was washed out four times in 1993 and flooded twice in 1991. Every time the creek and the nearby Iowa River overflows, about 85 percent of the houses are swamped.

"This needs to be done. The money is here now and we might as well do something about it," said Todd Banes, one of about 60 people who crammed into the fire station for the meeting.

The existing town has only a few side streets, 132 houses and fewer than 20 businesses, including a lumber yard and a farm equipment store.

Most of the residents are farmers or retirees. Some said moving could end their way of life.

"As a council, you should be helping everyone in this town whether they want to move or not," Vivian Trogu said. "You're not for Chelsea. You're for yourself. You're up on the hill. You don't give a damn about us."

Others said they were excited that Chelsea will get a fresh start.

"I think this will be good for the town. It's going to grow up on the hill, not down here. Here is where it's dying," Harold Jack said.

Council member Beatrice Dvorak rejected a call for a referendum on the move, saying no one will be forced to relocate.

Still, those who stay will have to raise the foundations of their homes to get flood insurance. That's a $20,000 proposition for most of Chelsea's houses, which were appraised at only $15,000 before the floods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency must formally approve the funding, which includes $3.4 million in grants to either move homes or buy out homeowners who choose to sell and rebuild on the hill.