Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Cass buyout demolition will wait until after flood

Cass County doesn't expect to demolish any buyout homes before the anticipated spring flood. But it also won't need to protect them, which will make the fight easier, said County Engineer Keith Berndt.

Cass County doesn't expect to demolish any buyout homes before the anticipated spring flood. But it also won't need to protect them, which will make the fight easier, said County Engineer Keith Berndt.

As of last week, the county had closed on 15 buyouts, out of a total of 80 potential buyout properties that are among the most flood-prone in the county.

"It's taking some time, but I think the county's going to be in a much better position," Berndt said.

All of the closed sales are from the first two rounds of buyouts, which involve a total of 41 properties.

Federal funding has been delayed for the third round, which covers 39 properties, although buyout appraisals have started on some of those homes.


Irv Rustad, executive director of the Lake Agassiz Regional Council, which is handling the buyout process for the county, said he expects to close on 90 percent of properties in the first two rounds by the end of March.

30 days to vacate

Owners have 30 days to vacate the property after the closing date.

Rustad said some owners who were slated for closings in April and May have decided to move up their dates because of the grim flood forecast. The National Weather Service's latest flood outlook, released Feb. 19, predicts the magnitude of spring flooding this year will likely be similar to last year.

The county will try to sell the buyout homes at auction to recoup tax dollars. The federal government is footing 75 percent of the buyout bill, while the county is paying 15 percent and the state 10 percent.

"We've gotten some pretty good prices for some of them in the past, and some of these homes are pretty nice homes," Berndt said. "We have to weigh that out, whether it makes sense to demolish them and be done or leave them in place."

Rustad said sales of buyout homes will likely begin in May.

Berndt said there's a "90 percent probability" that the county won't demolish any properties before the spring flood.


"If the basement gets flooded and we're going to move the house off anyway, it doesn't matter," he said.

Independent appraisals

Because federal funds are being used for the buyouts, the county must obtain at least two independent appraisals for each property. If the values are more than 15 percent apart, a third appraisal is ordered.

"It's a pretty fair process," said County Auditor Mike Montplaisir.

As in Fargo, Cass County is paying considerably more than the assessed tax value for the properties.

In the first round of buyouts, the total of the averaged appraisals was about $3.66 million - 22 percent higher than the total tax value of $3 million.

The difference is even greater in the second round of buyouts, with total averaged appraisals of more than $8.1 million, roughly one-third more than the total tax value of nearly $6.1 million.

In one example, the county has closed on three buyouts in the city of Briarwood, N.D. The total tax value for the three homes was $1,074,700. The total of the averaged appraisals for the three homes was $1,765,000, or 64 percent higher.


After subtracting what the homeowners received from their flood insurance policies for damage and adding the cost of repairs they've made to the homes since the flood to make them livable, the county paid out $997,587 for the three properties.

Montplaisir said it's difficult for appraisers to assign values to more expensive homes because there are so few comparable sales. Briarwood and other cities have their own assessors who set values, he said.

Berndt said that while the buyout process has been slower than officials had hoped, the fact remains that the county is closing on properties and getting ready to move them about a year after a record flood.

"I think that's record time by FEMA standards," he said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

What To Read Next
Get Local