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Published June 18 2010

Briarwood may help pay demo costs for buyout homes

The city of Briarwood remained steadfast Thursday in its opposition to moving flood buyout homes out of town, but Mayor John Adams told Cass County officials that the city is open to sharing the higher demolition costs that will result.

“That was good news,” County Engineer Keith Berndt said.

Four Briarwood homes were sold in the county’s buyout auction last month.

Three buyers wanted to move the homes out of

Briarwood, but city leaders refused, citing the potential damage to trees and roads and a city law passed after the 1997 flood that bans house moving in the tiny hamlet just south of Fargo.

As a result, the county will pay twice as much in demolition costs than if only the foundations were left behind, Berndt said.

Officials estimate the demolition cost at $25,000 per home on average.

Adams indicated the city would be willing to help cover the cost. He said the city will bid on the demolition job and hire a contractor to do the work.

Meanwhile, one of four Briarwood homeowners on the county’s third buyout list, which is waiting on Congress for funding, told the county’s Flood Buyout Program Committee that he hopes the ban on moving homes doesn’t jeopardize his shot at a buyout.

“We’re still very much interested in that buyout,” Mike Falkner said.

County Auditor Mike Montplaisir asked Adams if Briarwood leaders would pass a motion in support of the additional buyouts.

Adams said they would, “as long as you don’t move homes out of there and destroy the trees and the roads that are left.” He said the city doesn’t want to lose any more homes, but added that it’s not his place to stand in the way of homeowners who want buyouts.

The total buyout cost for the first four Briarwood homes was slightly more than $1.5 million, of which the county paid 15 percent, or $226,783. The four homes sold for a total of $44,000 at the May 27 auction.

The county agreed to refund buyers 90 percent of what they paid if they couldn’t get a permit to move their house, so the county may have to return $36,900 of the $41,000 earned on the three houses that buyers hoped to move.

Adams reiterated that Briarwood made it clear “to everyone involved” that it didn’t want houses moved. He said it may have been a different story if the homes – some of which have sustained flood damage multiple times – had sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, “but I couldn’t imagine that happening, and, of course, it didn’t.”

Jerry Steiner, who bought a buyout home in Oxbow, said he called Berndt and was told that “all these houses would be able to be moved out of there.” Now, he’s faced with possibly having to share in paying Oxbow Country Club $40,000 to move the home across the golf course’s driving range next winter.

Berndt said the county tried to let people know they needed to check with road authorities and to research the movability of the houses.

The committee agreed to recommend to the County Commission on Monday that the county split the Oxbow fee with buyers.

The county fetched $326,250 at the auction and netted about $291,000 after subtracting Steffes Auctioneers’ commission and $2,500 in miscellaneous expenses, said Irv Rustad of Lake Agassiz Regional Council, which is coordinating the buyout process.

Previously, buyers were told that if they took the 90 percent refund, they couldn’t use the house for salvage parts, but committee members agreed Thursday to recommend that the county allow it.


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