WILLMAR - Willmar will begin the process to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The Willmar City Council unanimously passed a motion at its Monday meeting to direct city administration and the city attorney to begin the application process, the first step to enter the program.

"This is something we need to do for our constituents," Mayor Marv Calvin said.

The city will need to complete the application form, pass a resolution indicating Willmar's desire to participate in the program and adopt a floodplain management ordinance that will meet or exceed the national program requirements. If the city decides to include the ordinance in the overall city zoning ordinance, the Planning Commission will also have to approve the ordinance.

In the past, the City Council has voted against joining the program, but due to the increase in large rain events and federal mortgage requirements on certain properties in the floodplain, the council changed the city's course in regard to the national program.

"We have a lot of individuals who are impacted, not frequently, but occasionally, by high-water events," said Ethan Jensen, a hydrologist with the Minnesota Department of National Resources, who presented information on the program Monday evening.

If the city joins the national program, approximately 10 properties in the city, in what is considered the high-risk floodplain along the lakes, would most likely be required to purchase flood insurance if there is a federally backed mortgage or loan on the property.

All other properties in Willmar, including those in the low-risk areas of the city, would have the choice and opportunity to purchase a flood insurance policy if the city joins the national program.

This latest movement to have Willmar join the national program started with Realtor Doug Fenstra, who is assisting individuals trying to purchase a home on Country Club Drive. The buyers have been unable to obtain financing through a federally backed mortgage lender because Willmar does not participate in the flood program.

Fenstra, along with his clients, attended the May 13 Community Development Committee meeting. The committee moved the issue to the full council with no recommendation, as the committee members felt more information was needed before a decision could be made.

Public Works Director Sean Christensen at the committee meeting said he felt it was an unnecessary burden on homeowners in the floodplain.

"I've been against it before and I am still against it," Christensen said May 13. "It comes at a price."

Joining the national program would also require the city to enforce flood-proof construction requirements in the floodplain, but Dave Ramstad, director of Planning and Development Services, said that should not be a concern.

"They've (contractors) been practicing flood-proof construction," Ramstad said May 13.

At Monday's council meeting, Jensen said the city could decide to opt out of the program at a later date if it so chose, though he supports municipalities being in the program. Also, if the city did unenroll, any property owners who purchased a flood insurance policy would lose that coverage.

"It is a program that has been adopted by many other communities," Jensen said.