Flood recovery program seeks more homeowners, contractors

A Texas contractor could be doing most of the repair and construction on flood-damaged homes through the City of Minot’s Housing Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programs.

DSW Homes of Galveston, Texas, was the only qualified bidder in the programs, which haven’t received as many homeowner applications as hoped, either.

The Minot City Council established the rebuilding program using a portion of its $67 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery dollars. Together, the $4.5 million rehabilitation program and $9.5 million reconstruction program are designed to assist about 140 low- to moderate-income residents. Those who qualify for the programs may be eligible for up to $60,000 for rehabilitation and $150,000 for reconstruction.

So far, the city has 22 properties for potential rehabilitation or reconstruction. Cindy Hemphill, city finance director, said two homes will be ready to start rehabilitation in a few weeks. Two vacant lots andpossibly a third will be ready once construction season starts, and three additional homes are undergoing site inspection before getting on the construction schedule. There are three properties in which asbestos abatement must be done before they are eligible for the program, with 11 properties still in the initial inspection stage.

The city continues to take applications through the Minot Disaster Recovery Services office in Arrowhead Mall. People can drop by the office or call 837-5813.

To be eligible for the CDBG-DR programs, a person must have been the owner of a house damaged at the time of the 2011 Mouse River flood and the house must have been the primary residence. An applicant also must plan to re-occupy the home and live there at least three years if a rehabilitation or five years if a reconstruction. The homeowner must maintain flood insurance during the compliance period. Homes in the footprint of the enhanced flood protection plan are ineligible.

Residents must be below 80 percent of the median Ward County income of $64,200. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates an individual making $36,300 or less or a family of four making $51,850 or less would be eligible.

Hemphill said many homeowners have been running into roadblocks because they spent their Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance on expenses other than home repair. The CDBG-DR program requires them to put money into the rehabilitation or reconstruction at an amount equal to the federal assistance they received for their damaged homes.

On Tuesday, the council’s Finance and Improvements Committee voted to recommend the council accept the bid of DSW Homes as a contractor in the reconstruction portion of the program. The city already has approved DSW as contractor in the rehabilitation portion of the project.

Hemphill said there is some concern about having only one contractor because the city would like to complete all the work this year.

To relieve some of the burden on DSW, the city plans to bid separately three smaller projects. Hemphill said the amount of bonding capacity required of bidders discouraged some contractors, but that bonding capacity will be lessened with a smaller project.

The company was the only bidder for the rehabilitation. A recently formed Minot company, Lynx Construction, offered a bid on the reconstruction work but did not meet the criteria.

The city had sought bids from builders in Minot, Bismarck-Mandan, Grand Forks, Fargo-Moorhead and Minneapolis. It also sent information upon request to contractors in California, Montana and Texas.

DSW has been in business for three years, although the owners and employees have many years of experience. Costs in the company’s bid were all below the engineer’s estimate by 13 to 22 percent.