FEMA agrees to cover cost of 26 Cass County flood-damaged homesCass County got the federal government’s blessing for a second round of flood buyouts on Friday, but there’s still “a long way to go” before the homes are moved out of harm’s way, the county auditor said.
By: Mike Nowatzki, INFORUM
Cass County got the federal government’s blessing for a second round of flood buyouts on Friday, but there’s still “a long way to go” before the homes are moved out of harm’s way, the county auditor said.
North Dakota’s congressional delegation announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to help cover the cost of buying another 26 flood-damaged homes in the county.
That brings to 44 the total number of buyouts in Cass County approved through FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance program.
But homeowners have yet to receive buyout offers, so there’s no telling how many buyouts will actually take place.
“There’s still a long way to go,” Auditor Mike Montplaisir said. “We’re in the process of doing appraisals and that sort of thing, and some people may drop out along the way for various reasons.
“But it’s good news,” he added. “The more homes we can get out of danger, the better.”
Albert Frisinger, a Heritage Hills homeowner and Stanley Township supervisor whose home is on the second-round buyout list, said he’s “happy as can be” about the FEMA approval, but he still doesn’t know if he’ll accept a buyout.
“I don’t have a clue,” he said. “First, they have to come around and make an offer. I gotta be able to buy equal to what I’m living in, because there’s a loan that has to be secured by it.”
Frisinger, who is repairing his own home, said some of his neighbors have already bought new homes.
“And this is wonderful news, because financially it’s going to help them out,” he said.
FEMA will contribute 75 percent, or about $5.8 million, of the cost of buying the 26 homes. The county and state will pay $1.9 million, according to a news release from Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, all Democrats.
“These homes were subject to recurring flooding, leaving families uncertain of their futures,” the release stated. “This funding will allow those homeowners to move on with their lives, and help Fargo move forward with its effort to recover from this year’s historic flood and prevent flooding in the future.”
The combined cost of the two buyout applications is about $12 million, of which FEMA will pay $8.9 million. The state will pay $1.2 million and the county will cover the remaining $1.8 million from $3 million set aside from its building fund, Montplaisir said.
The county plans to apply for additional funding through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to buy homes that suffered more than 50 percent damage, County Engineer Keith Berndt said.
Currently, 37 homes have been identified. The state will receive HMGP applications from around the state this fall, and a decision isn’t expected until spring.
Initially, only eight flood-damaged houses in Cass County met FEMA’s benefit-cost ratio for buyout funding. The county hired a consultant and worked with state officials and the delegation to add more homes to the project and still meet the 1.0 ratio. The second application barely met the ratio, at 1.05.
In a news release, the county applauded the efforts of the delegation and Gov. John Hoeven.
“Because of that cooperative effort, we were able to qualify quite a few more homes than initially looked like would qualify,” Berndt said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528