Finger-Pointing Goes in Both Directions

IT is only by coincidence that planning and zoning officials in St. Charles County, Mo., are entrenched in a basement office and shielded by a metal detector and an armed sheriff. Still, given the level of public enmity toward some official flood-relief efforts, the embattled officials say they have come to appreciate the defenses.

While acknowledging some mistakes, planning and zoning officials say citizens' ire is largely unjustified. The residents of St. Charles County to a degree have themselves to blame for the slow buyout application effort, officials assert.

Many flood victims have declined an invitation to dispute the condemnation of their home and discuss a possible buyout, says official Miriam Davie Anderson. Hampered by this difficulty and by personnel and financial shortages, the county has applied for buyouts for just 819 structures.

In sympathy for harried local officials on the flood plains, state and federal agencies have postponed the application deadline for buyouts twice. Still, local officials say they are caught between fastidious state and federal bureaucracies and a shell-shocked, touchy public. But rather than lambaste officials at higher levels, citizens have turned on planning and zoning, say local officials.

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