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Published May 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Cass County readies for 107 buyouts

Cass County is nearly ready to submit applications for federal funds to buy 107 homes, officials said Friday.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Cass County is nearly ready to submit applications for federal funds to buy 107 homes, officials said Friday.

Funds received from the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance program will be used to buy homes in high-risk flood areas along the Red River that were covered by flood insurance, Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt said.

The applications will consist of several bundles of homes grouped by area, Berndt said. The application period for the Federal Emergency Management Agency program opens Friday, he said.

Cass County wants funds to buy 140 homes worth roughly $30 million, Berndt said. That number includes homes that didn’t have flood insurance, he said.

The county will apply for Hazard Mitigation Grant funds for all 140 homes in a move that runs parallel to the request for FMA funds, he said.

There is about $25 million available in the FMA program for flood buyouts, the county’s Flood Buyout Program Committee was told. But the FMA program is competitive, with requests from around the nation, Berndt said.

He told residents attending the meeting that the county should have an answer on funding 60 days after the applications are submitted.

“The money is sitting there for people, like (those in) Cass County, that have done the right thing in terms of flood mitigation,” County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said. “They’re just waiting for it to hit their desks.”

Some residents said they haven’t been contacted about a buyout yet.

Dwayne Schell, 401 Forest River Drive, lost his home to floodwaters and now lives in a Fargo apartment. He wishes the process were easier to navigate.

“It’s a little frustrating. You send your application, but you don’t know if you’re on the list,” Schell said.

He bought his place in 1998, and loved the quiet setting 150 feet from the Red River. But he said he’ll trade three-season peace for springtime security.

“I’m going to be 62,” Schell said. “I can’t see sandbagging every year.”

Berndt said contractors will finish determining elevations for potential buyout homes this weekend.

“Time is critical at this point,” Berndt said. “We are doing everything we can to make this process move quickly.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583