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Dave Roepke, Published March 16 2010

Unwanted battle begins over Cass County buyouts

Kent Olson figured his sandbagging days were behind him.

Like most of his neighbors along Forest River Road just south of Fargo, he had enough after last year and told Cass County officials he’d take a buyout offer.

A year later, Olson isn’t signing off on a sale. He’s gearing up to defend his house from a flood for the third time in five years.

“Everybody was thinking we’d be bought out by now,” said Olson, who had 4 feet of water in his basement in 2009.

Given uncertainty about federal funding on buyouts, prospective sellers can’t walk away from homes in which they might be stuck.

“You’ve got to plan that the buyouts aren’t going to be there,” Olson said.

That’s why he had two truckloads of sand in his driveway and a stack of empty bags in his garage on Monday as he prepared for volunteers to arrive.

His neighbor a few doors down, Halder Thompson, is also in another flood fight he wanted to avoid. It took 14,000 sandbags last year, and he’s estimating 10,000 this time – a case of deja vu that he finds galling.

“If you would have talked to me last week, I would have hollered at you. I’ve come to accept it now,” Thompson said. “This should have been done by now.”

Some residents who are on the county’s buyout list are still in recovery mode.

Julie Sorby said she and her husband moved back to their Briarwood home on March 8, precisely a week before she was directing a shipment of sand into her lot on Monday morning.

She said their house had to be gutted, putting them in an apartment for almost an entire year.

“We haven’t even unpacked yet,” Sorby said.

Jill Johnson might be the only buyout recipient who was hustling in Heritage Hills, a subdivision off 88th Avenue South where only a few owners plan to stay.

The Johnsons got word over the weekend that their buyout is supposed to close today, and they close on a new home on Wednesday.

Their moving truck was filling up fast, but Johnson said they don’t think they can haul it all out before floodwaters cut off the low-sitting neighborhood.

“We’re going to get as much as we can,” she said.

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