Extension proposed to allow FEMA units on private sites until October

Flood survivors living in temporary housing units on their private properties would have until October to remove the units under a plan being recommended by the Minot City Council’s Public Works and Safety Committee.

Residents could get extensions past October by obtaining special use permits.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to get out of the post-flood housing business on June 24. The agency has been selling its temporary housing units to interested occupants. There are 122 units on private property nearly all on the flooded lots next to houses that homeowners are repairing.

The city has temporary zoning regulations that allow the units on private lots. Once FEMA turns over the units in June, though, the units will be in violation of the zoning code. Members of the public works committee decided that residents should have until Oct. 1 to fix up their homes and remove the temporary units.

“We need to instill some sense of urgency in these people,” council member Dave Lehner said in proposing the date.

However, the committee understood that construction delays and financial considerations will prevent some residents from meeting that deadline. So the committee is recommending that after Oct. 1, the council allow residents to apply for special use permits, which will have time limits set on a case-by-case basis. A 10-vote majority of the 14-member council is required to approve special use permits.

Linda McDaniel, the only resident to weigh in on the topic, said many people will have the same financial constraints in meeting that deadline. She is saving money to replace her demolished home. She expects to be in her FEMA unit for another year.

Without an extension, she added, “I will be forced to leave the state. … Not everyone is in a situation to go out and purchase a $300,000 to $400,000 house.” Rents for people with pets also are in the $2,000 to $3,000 a month range, she said.

The policy being recommended by the committee also requires that people receiving special use permits post a bond to cover removal if the unit isn’t gone by the deadline. Staff will investigate removal costs and present a bond figure for the council to consider at its meeting Monday.

In other business, the committee voted to recommend the council adopt a new payment plan for residents who receive radio-read water meter units.

In July 2010, the city council approved a multi-year program to install the remotely read units. The intent was to install the units at new houses and in areas where access was a problem. The city also volunteered the units to any residents who wanted them. The cost of a unit ranges from $120 to $140.

Due to the flood, implementation didn’t happen until the end of 2011. The city started installing the units on homes restored after the flood. The city began to get calls from homeowners concerned about the cost, which prompted the city to offer a payment plan over several months. The city continued to receive calls that the cost was too high.

The committee is recommending that people receiving the units pay an ongoing monthly fee of $2 per unit on their utility bills to cover the cost and future maintenance. The charge would take effect in the February billings.

For households already charged the full fee, the city will reimburse the fee to the address where it was charged. The city has installed the units on about 382 new and flood-repaired homes throughout the city.

The committee also is recommending that the council accept bids totaling about $182,900 to repair or remove pedestrian bridges damaged in the 2011 Souris River flood.

Rolac Contracting’s bid of just under $40,000 was the low bid to repair the Anne Street and First Avenue Southeast bridges. Park Construction Co.’s bid of $142,956 was the low bid to remove the Victoria Street Bridge. FEMA will fund $155,500 and the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services will fund $12,094. The city’s share would be $15,309.