CDBG-DR money back

Homeowners who invested in restoring their homes immediately after the 2011 flood may be eligible for reimbursement if the federal government approves the City of Minot’s plan for spending its second round of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery dollars.

Having identified Minot’s greatest needs as housing and transportation, the city is proposing to spend $5 million on home repair reimbursements, nearly $13 million on property buyouts and about $11.6 million on road and street repairs. The city received a CDBG-DR grant of $35 million last May in addition to about $67 million received and allocated in 2012.

The city has posted its proposed action plan for the second allocation of CDBG-DR funds on the city website at cdbg.minotnd.org for public comment through Aug. 19. Comments may be submitted to (pio@minotnd.org).

People also can obtain comment cards and view a copy of the action plan at City Hall, 515 Second Ave. SW, at Minot Disaster Recovery Office in Arrowhead Mall or the Minot Public Library, across from City Hall. All comments may be returned to any of these locations.

Residents who do not speak English or have disabilities may request auxiliary aids by contacting Tami Stroklund, executive secretary, P.O. Box 5006, Minot, ND 58702-5006 or (tami.stroklund@minotnd.org). Alternatively, they may access the State of North Dakota assistance at the following numbers: TTY, 800-366-6888 or 711; Spanish, 800-435-8590 or 711; Voice, 800-366-6889 or 711; 900 Services, 877-366-3709; and Speech to Speech, 877-366-3709.

The proposed reimbursement program would provide grants up to $10,000 to homeowners who sustained damage to their primary residencies as a result of the flood. Reimbursement would be available for repair expenses incurred within one year of the flood.

The plan allocates 51 percent of the funding to low- to moderate-income households and 49 percent for other households. The program will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Eligibility requirements for ownership, occupancy and repairs are the same as the $15 million Housing Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, funded with the city’s first round of CDBG-DR dollars. The homes must be covered by flood insurance and be located outside the city’s footprint for flood control.

Cindy Hemphill, city finance director, said the city learned recently that reimbursement for homeowners is an option. The federal Housing and Urban Development office would not support reimbursement when the city was allocating its first CDBG-DR grant. HUD’s position changed after Hurricane Sandy, when reimbursement was used as a means of getting assistance out, she said.

Hemphill said the goal is to move quickly on the reimbursement process once HUD approves an action plan. HUD has 45 days after the city submits its plan, which is due by Sept. 3. The city could open the application process by Oct. 1 and have money to homeowners by early next year, but it will depend on the HUD approval, she said.

Homeowners whose properties are included in the next round of voluntary buyouts also could be getting letters as soon as October. However, there are more logistics involved because of the involvement of not only HUD but the North Dakota State Water Commission. The $12.89 million in CDBG-DR money is expected to leverage nearly $38.7 million from the State Water Commission.

As the largest expense in the action plan, the buyout money would provide a 25 percent match for state funds. Hemphill explained that this will extend voluntary buyout offers to additional property owners in the area identified as needed for future flood protection.

The first round of buyouts, in which the city acquired about 80 homes, focused on properties that the city needed not only for future flood control but also to access the existing dikes in event of a flood threat. The city allocated $2.7 million of first-round CDBG-DR funds to provide a 25 percent match to homeowners participating in the voluntary acquisition program. The State Water Commission had provided $8.3 million as of earlier this summer.

The city proposes to use the second largest amount of funding in the action plan, $9.1 million, to repair the city’s flood-damaged transportation system. The Federal Emergency Management Agency only paid to patch streets. The additional money would pay for repair and improvement of those streets that took the brunt of the flood damage. In addition, $100,000 is included to conduct a needs analysis on the Anne Street Bridge to determine what repairs and improvements are needed to make the flood-damaged bridge safe for pedestrians.

The plan also includes $2.55 million for repair and improvements to 14th, 16th and 46th Streets, which serve as secondary roadways for the FEMA temporary housing site. The roads have deteriorated due to increased use.

The proposed spending includes nearly $3.66 million to CDM Smith for case management and $1.75 million to the city for administration.

The city doesn’t plan to obligate all of the money in the action plan right away, though. Hemphill said the city has two years from activation of the plan to use the grant or lose it, so delaying full activation can extend the period that money is available. For instance, the city plans to initially request only $1.65 million of the $12.89 million allocated in the plan for buyouts, due to the onset of winter and the time that it is expected to take to obtain property titles.

Hemphill said the city learned from the previous CDBG-DR grant that there are many situations that can slow the process, especially when it comes to home acquisitions. By leaving some money unobligated, the city retains access through plan amendments later.