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Published May 25 2010

Moves a road to ruin?

Some Cass County residents worry the road to flood relief could come at a cost to their own blacktop.

Residents in at least two rural Fargo subdivisions have raised concerns to the county that relocating flood buyout homes could damage their streets.

In the case of those living along Northwood Drive north of Fargo, the street is their lone access in and out of the subdivision, which was hit hard by flooding in 1997, 2009 and this spring.

Three houses on Northwood Drive – including one at the end of the dead-end street – are among 35 buyout homes Cass County hopes to sell at auction on Thursday to recoup some of the nearly $9 million spent on the buyouts.

The houses must either be moved to new sites or salvaged and demolished.

Todd Cook, whose house sits on the same side of the street as the buyout homes, worries the relocation process will block his outlet to County Road 31 and damage narrow Northwood Drive, which is crumbling at its edges in some spots.

“When they move these houses, the road’s going to get destroyed, and who’s going to repair it?” said Cook, whose backyard is slowly slumping into the Red River.

Northwood Drive is a public roadway. It was dedicated and conveyed to Cass County in 1976, according to the subdivision’s original plat.

However, the road is privately maintained, with homeowners paying for snow removal and repairs, as with other rural subdivisions in Reed Township.

County Engineer Keith Berndt said he’s fielded a number of calls from residents, some who want detailed answers that aren’t yet available. He said the county will coordinate with home buyers and movers to make sure they take the appropriate measures to protect the road and, if necessary, repair it.

“We’re confident after moving many, many homes in 1997 without damaging any roads, we’re confident we can do it,” he said.

Berndt said there’s a misperception that moving houses wrecks roads.

“The reality is they put so many wheels under these houses when they move them that the individual wheel loading isn’t as bad as a loaded semi,” he said, adding a bigger concern is having to haul in fill to fill in basements once the houses are gone.

Deposits will be required before each house move to cover any road damage that results, said Irv Rustad, executive director of the Lake Agassiz Regional Council, which is coordinating the county’s buyout process. Residents in the Butch R Block subdivision also have voiced concerns about damage, he said.

Officials typically inspect roads beforehand – and sometimes videotape them – for before-and-after comparisons, he said.

Cook said there’s been “no communication” from the county with Northwood Drive residents about the process. Rustad conceded it’s been “kind of a clumsy deal up there” because residents don’t have a neighborhood association and must be contacted individually.

Some of their mailboxes would have to be temporarily removed or laid down to allow the homes to pass through, he said.

Berndt said he’s aware that some would prefer the county not make the homes available for relocation.

“But from a taxpayers perspective, we expect they’re going to bring in some pretty good money to save the taxpayers some money,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528