Demolition begins for some

Houses have been coming down along the Souris River as the City of Minot clears about 80 properties acquired for future flood control.

Lance Meyer, city engineer, said the contractor should finish in September with removal of the city-owned houses. The contractor then will begin demolishing seven flood-damaged houses condemned as health hazards by First District.

Many more houses that appear abandoned exist in the valley than are on those demolition lists, though.

Jim Heckman, director of environmental health at First District Health Unit, Minot, said First District is still working on properties and expects to be turning more over to the city for demolition. The unit has about 50 properties that it is investigating.

“Some of the ones secured early on have started to deteriorate to the point where now we have started to get more complaints,” Heckman said. “What I am running into is the extent of my authority on houses that are secured. They are not a nuisance or health threat out front.”

His office averages an estimated six complaints a week from upset neighbors of these houses. If the only issue is weed growth, First District cannot condemn the properties, even though the overgrowth can attract rodents, skunks and other problems.

Heckman said the city and county would need to establish a process to enable authorities to take action against properties that are abandoned, regardless of whether they are secured.

“Otherwise, I don’t know what we are going to do with them,” Heckman said.

David Waind, Minot city manager, said the city has an ordinance requiring homeowners to fix up neglected properties or have them torn down. However, that process can be lengthy because of the notification and response periods provided to property owners. Waind said there has been internal discussion about revising that ordinance so the city and First District can move more quickly on problem houses.

“We have been busy enough with the ones that are health hazards that we haven’t acted on that yet,” he said.

He added that the city also has delayed to give leeway to homeowners who haven’t had the immediate resources to rebuild. The grace period won’t last forever, though.

“I think we will be seeing action in the foreseeable future,” Waind said. “I think the community wants to see something happening with those homes.”

The city also is developing another round of voluntary acquisitions, and some abandoned homes might fall into that buyout zone, he said. If the city acquires the houses, they could be removed.

Many unrepaired homes have gone back to lenders who turned them over to management agencies or others. That makes it more difficult to track down the responsible party about a purchase or an order to clean up the property, according to the city and health unit.

The number of abandoned homes is difficult to gauge. City assessor Kevin Ternes said the city hasn’t surveyed the flooded area since last December, when they found about 600 homes that had not had any repair started. Ternes said his office wasn’t able to determine whether homes were abandoned or just delayed in their reconstruction.