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Heidi Shaffer, Published January 13 2011

Cass buyouts face tight timeline for auctions

Cass County is finishing up another round of buyouts, but faces a tight timeline to get the homes auctioned off and moved out before potential spring flooding.

A buyout committee will decide in the next week or two whether to auction off the 24 homes it has closed on in the past few months, said County Engineer Keith Berndt.

Another month of planning and publicizing after that decision means an auction would likely not take place before mid- to late February, Berndt said.

Leonard, N.D., resident Matt Bruesch is concerned the county is running out of time to get the homes sold and moved out before flood season arrives in March.

Bruesch has his eye on a Butch-R-Block Subdivision home the county bought from his aunt and uncle in November.

“It’s not necessarily if I get the house or not,” Bruesch said. “My whole problem with it is that they have all of those houses sitting there. Why are they not having a sale?”

Irv Rustad, executive director of the Lake Agassiz Regional Council who organizes the county’s buyouts, said this isn’t an unusual wait for an auction.

Organizers want to ensure there are enough homes for a good auction, Rustad said. They also need to test all of the homes for asbestos and lead-based paint before a sale, he said.

The county made more than $325,000 from the sale of 35 homes in May, according to Forum archives.

Those homes sat through last spring’s flood, and some required the county to pump floodwaters from the basements. But they still sold, Rustad said.

“The loss would be if there were a flood that was so severe that it got water on the main floor,” Berndt said.

Auctioning off acquired homes is a perk if it pans out, but in the scheme of things the county only makes back a fraction of the purchase price, Berndt said.

This most recent bout of buyouts, largely located in Chrisan and Forest River, was paid primarily through Federal Emergency Management hazard mitigation grants, he said.

The county has already closed on 24 homes, which used up just more than $4 million of the buyout funds. An additional 15 houses are still in the process of being bought out and would likely be part of a separate auction, Berndt said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511