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Moorhead orders house fixed or razed

If the owner of a vacant riverside house in north Moorhead does not tear down or renovate the home, the city plans to do it for him. City officials have received many complaints about the house, just west of the county courthouse at 810 9th Ave.

If the owner of a vacant riverside house in north Moorhead does not tear down or renovate the home, the city plans to do it for him.

City officials have received many complaints about the house, just west of the county courthouse at 810 9th Ave. N., said Neighborhood Services Manager Lisa Vatnsdal.

In February, city inspectors responding to complaints found the building, which has been vacant since 1998, was not secure and was occupied by skunks, cats and a badger.

At a meeting Monday, City Council declared the building hazardous and ordered owner William Rakowski to fix the home or raze it.

Vatnsdal estimated it would cost between $12,000 and $18,000 to demolish the house.

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City building inspectors estimate it would cost $52,000 to bring it up to code, an unlikely plan for a house valued at $400.

If Rakowski does not respond to the order in 20 days or comply within 60 days, the city can under state law demolish the house and assess him the cost, City Attorney Brian Neugebauer said. Rakowski can appeal the order in District Court.

Rakowski said he is willing to work with the city and does not expect a prolonged court battle.

"I wouldn't let it drag out," he said.

The Fargo landlord has owned the house since the 1970s, according to city records. For years it was a rental home, but it was damaged in the 1997 flood, Rakowski said.

It was fixed up after that but was left vacant after it was damaged again in a later flood, he said.

Since then, Rakowski said he has mowed the grass and kept the property picked up, playing the waiting game.

"Really what I was waiting for was another good flood so I could get a FEMA buyout. I'm sure they're tired of me waiting," he said.

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After the February inspection, the city used its new vacant home registration code for the first time, requiring Rakowski to pay a fee of $400.

That city law also requires owners to come up with a plan to occupy or raze the house, Vatnsdal said.

Rakowski said that was not clear to him.

"I certainly wouldn't have given them the $400 just for them to tell me to tear it down. That doesn't make much sense, does it?" he said.

Monday's action was under a separate state law that allows cities to order the destruction of hazardous buildings, Neugebauer said.

Rakowski said he has no plan to tear down the home. He owns a second, occupied home directly north of the vacant one. The water pipes for the occupied home first run through the unoccupied home, complicating any demolition plans.

He said he would prefer the city purchase the home if it wants it destroyed.

"I'd still like them to buy it," he said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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