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Wendy Reuer, Published May 28 2013

Moorhead won't deliver sandbags for floods under 42.5 feet

MOORHEAD – The City Council here decided Tuesday it will only consider providing sandbags in future flood events if the river is predicted to be above 42.5 feet.

Council members approved a new policy that says they will discuss purchasing and delivering empty sandbags and loose sand to riverfront homes only if the National Weather Service issues a deterministic flood forecast of 42.5 feet or higher.

“The City Council would then have a discussion on whether they would want to deliver and what the future response would be,” City Manager Michael Redlinger said.

The policy came after an informal council discussion on May 20, when Mayor Mark Voxland suggested riverfront homeowners – those who have yet to accept a buyout – start paying for sandbags.

Voxland said the council has spent $87 million since 2009 buying more than 200 riverfront homes and constructing citywide levees up to 42.5 feet. Eighty-seven properties remain on the river.

Redlinger said Tuesday that the city spent $464,366.11 on sandbagging costs for this year’s flood, most of which went to those 87 properties.

Some council members thought a vote on the policy was moving too quickly. Councilwoman Brenda Elmer said she believes homeowners who previously declined a buyout offer may change their mind this year and that some homeowners feel the city “wants them gone.”

“A lot of (riverfront homeowners) feel vilified as we talk about the broader issues, the flood insurance and the impacts on the community,” Elmer said. “I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.”

Councilman Mike Hulett reminded the council that it asked staff to return a policy draft by Tuesday’s meeting. Hulett, who like Elmer represents the 3rd Ward, said he has not received complaints or concerns from residents about the policy.

Councilwoman Nancy Otto said approving the policy now would allow homeowners facing a buyout more information on which to base their decision.

“I don’t think it’s very fair to the residents along the river if we don’t have a policy in place prior to our final round of buyout offers. This is making sure our residents throughout the city know exactly what is ahead for the folks along the river,” Otto said.

City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said that of the 87 properties still on the riverfront, 20 will not receive a buyout offer because they are eligible for backyard mitigation projects. He said he hoped to finish acquisitions by the end of this year to begin designing final city levee projects.

“Everyone on the list will be given the buyout or given an option to put a project in place,” Zimmerman said.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer moved to table the policy motion until Aug. 1 and asked that the city meet with the 87 property owners. His motion was defeated after a split vote caused Mayor Mark Voxland to vote against tabling the issue. Hintermeyer, Elmer and Councilmen Mark Altenburg and Steve Gehrtz voted to table the discussion while Otto, Hulett, Heidi Durand and Luther Stueland voted against tabling the policy.

Stueland said the issue has been on the table for the four years he has been on the council and it is time to move it forward.

“I think we’ve vetted this pretty well. We’ve gotten lots and lots of ideas from parties on and off the river,” Stueland said.

Stueland said that although the city refers to its buyout program as voluntary, he believes it is not. He said everyone in the city is coerced into paying for flood mitigation.

The policy was passed with Stueland, Otto, Hulett, Gehrtz, Durand and Altenburg voting for it. Elmer and Hintermeyer voted against the policy.

Mill Creek Custom Cabinets to rebuild

MOORHEAD – The City Council here approved a tax exemption for Mill Creek Custom Cabinets, a business that plans to rebuild after an April 19 fire destroyed its industrial park location.

The business, owned by Myron and Kathy Martinson, will build a $600,000, 12,000-square-foot facility at 2828 24th Ave. S.

The City Council approved a four-year tax exemption worth about $55,200 to Mill Creek Custom Cabinets after a public meeting Tuesday.

The April 19 fire just northwest of Menards, caused an estimated $1 million in damage. The fire was determined accidental, caused by a spontaneous combustion of stain rags.

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