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Patrick Springer, Published August 06 2010

Cass County, Briarwood at odds over buyouts

Cass County and the village of Briarwood continue to haggle over the removal of four flood-prone homes whose owners are seeking government buyouts.

The rift stems from the county’s sale of buyout homes to help defray costs of the program and the flood-plagued city’s restrictions for removing homes.

The issue resurfaced at a meeting Thursday of a county committee overseeing the buyout program, which involved about 80 rural homes with a “ballpark” price tag of $24 million.

The rub: Moving the four Briarwood homes seems to require property damage to existing home lots, including tree removal or trimming, or partly dismantling the homes – a hindrance in selling the homes for anything other than salvage.

Cass County commissioners seem irked by what they view as a lack of cooperation from Briarwood, even though the county stepped in, at taxpayer expense, to handle the buyout arrangements.

“It doesn’t look like there’s been any movement at all,” County Commissioner Ken Pawluk told Briarwood residents. “It’s something that should be resolved.”

Briarwood residents complain that removal of the large homes would cause significant damage to remaining home lots and said the four sold homes collectively brought in about $40,000.

Meanwhile, committee members were told, the buyer of one of the Briarwood houses is fed up with the delay and wants a refund.

County Engineer Keith Berndt is tallying estimated costs associated with moving the disputed houses and any damages and plans to present the information to county commissioners.

“I wouldn’t call it a big sticking point,” Berndt said, estimating the costs are less than $100,000, modest compared to the roughly $24 million initiative’s total cost, shared among federal, state and local governments.

Mike Falkner is one of the Briarwood residents who is trying to sell his home to the buyout program but is caught in the middle of the dispute.

“We’re the ones that will lose out,” he said.

Pawluk said homeowners like Falkner should not be penalized, and he wants the dispute resolved.

In another development, committee members were told that appraisals should start soon for the last batch of 14 homes on the county’s buyout list. Offers should be made in mid-October.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522