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Vern Bennett, Published May 04 2013

Letter: Cass County has long-term plan to protect from flooding

The flood protection home purchase program administered by Cass County is a voluntary program. It is financed by about 75 percent federal, 17.5 percent state and 7.5 percent county funds. Homes in the hazard mitigation grant program must meet certain criteria, such as being frequently flooded, difficult to protect from flood waters and subject to flooding at certain levels.

Homes are purchased because the community benefits rather than due to the hardship to individual homeowners. Under the program, the county is required to have two independent appraisals on the home. The appraisals look at the pre-flood condition of the residence, and do not take into account that the home is prone to flooding. If the two appraisals are more than 15 percent apart, the county has a third appraisal done.

Our goal is to ensure that both the homeowner and taxpayer are getting as fair a deal as possible. There are instances when an offer is made for less than what the property is appraised for tax purposes. Often this is when the homeowner received flood insurance payments for damage and did not spend the flood insurance proceeds on repairing the damage. On those homes, the amount not spent on repairing the damage is subtracted from the appraisals in order to prevent duplicate payments.

Cass County has purchased about 157 properties since 1997. On April 23, we received the good news from FEMA that we could begin the acquisition process for 50 additional homes. The work schedule includes appraisals, abstracts, titles, purchase offers, closings, asbestos abatement, demolition and greenway seeding, as well as other requirements, and should be completed within the next 15 months. The project cost is just above

$14 million. The 75 percent federal share is $10.5 million; the 17.5 percent state share is $2.5 million; and the 7.5 percent is just more than

$1 million.

Regarding the flood sales tax, the county has been using the sales tax money as it was advertised and voted upon by county residents. Ninety percent of the money is dedicated to the Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area Diversion Project. The remaining 10 percent flood sales tax is used for other flood control projects important to the area, such as assisting with the city of Argusville levee improvements, flood protection within the cities of Oxbow and Mapleton, a home purchase for levee construction in Round Hill subdivision, and a study in conjunction with the Maple River and Steele County Water Resource Districts.

Cass County also has a permanent long-term flood protection plan that will help about 90 percent of the population of Cass County. It is called the F-M Metro Area Diversion.

Bennett is chairman of the Cass County Commission.