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Wendy Reuer, Published January 17 2012

Clay buyouts may help out Gwinner

FARGO – Clay County flood control might assist another community’s dire housing needs.

The city of Gwinner is considering buying Clay County’s buyout homes this week during the county’s flood mitigation auction.

Gwinner is facing a housing shortage as its largest employer, Bobcat Co., has more than 1,000 workers – with the potential for more jobs to be added – in a city of about 750 people.

Gwinner Mayor Dan McKeever remained coy Tuesday afternoon about whether the city would definitely place bids on one or more of the buyout homes. But, he told The Forum the four-person city council will meet tonight and discuss submitting a bid for Thursday’s auction.

“We don’t know for sure,” McKeever said. “We’ve looked at all of them.”

Clay County Planning Director Tim Magnusson said bids are due by 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

The sealed bids will be opened at 1 p.m. If a home has more than one bid, the highest three bidders can then vie for the property through an auction process Thursday.

Of the 12 homes for auction, nine are located in the Crestwood Subdivision near southern Moorhead and three are located in Oakport Township. Magnusson said the homes were built in the 1970s and 1980s.

Magnusson said it’s the first time a city has been interested in buyout homes.

Gwinner City Manager Jeff Anderson said a development in the northern part of the city is ready to accommodate houses. The development is owned by a private company, Gwinner City Development Corp.

“The city would be obtaining the lots and securing the homes. Then they would go up for sale to individuals,” Anderson said. “We won’t be looking at making any profits on it, just a matter of getting the costs back.”

Anderson said he fields calls from prospective homeowners every day.

“The apartments are full, the houses that are sellable have sold, and we just don’t have adequate housing. It’s not just Gwinner, it’s the surrounding communities as well,” McKeever said.

With the lack of available housing in Gwinner and surrounding areas, Bobcat employees are commuting from all around the region, including from as far away as Fargo, about a 1½-hour drive, and Aberdeen, S.D., nearly two hours away, Anderson said.

“If we had something open up, they’d jump at the opportunity,” Anderson said.

The city plans to tap its economic development fund if it moves forward with purchasing buyouts. McKeever said he wasn’t sure what the city’s spending limits would be.

“There’s been a lot of people looking at these homes, so it’s hard to say what they’re going to go for,” McKeever said.

By Tuesday, Magnusson said the county had only received one bid for the auction, but most bids come in at the last minute.

If you go

What: Clay County Buyout Auction

When: 1 p.m. Thursday

Where: Meeting Room B, Clay County Courthouse Moorhead

Info: Sealed bids must be received by 12:45 p.m. Thursday. Auction will be among multiple bid properties.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530