A flood of frustration

Though it was warm with scattered clouds looming over Minot Wednesday afternoon, inside the council chambers at City Hall a storm was raging as frustrated flood-affecteds let vent their emotions and concerns at an ad hoc committee meeting, formed by the City Council to decide whether temporary housing units can continue to be used on properties in town.

The city estimated that 58 units left over from those provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the 2011 Souris River flood are still in use around Minot, down from 120 at the beginning of the year. After a campaign by the planning department to apprise unit owners of a final extension for interim usage and despite a waiving of fees, only 23 responded with applications.

Voting 4-1 in favor of a monitored extension, the committee decided that those applicants plus an additional walk-in attendee of the meeting will get to continue using their units as they need until June 1, 2014. For the 35 or so others, they have until Oct. 15 to contact the planning department.

Chairing the committee, Dave Lehner stated that “a line in the sand” had been drawn, and a metaphorical wall has been placed on top of that. “Once that date is hit, there will be no more extensions granted.”

This phrasing did not go down smoothly with some in the audience, with a number of raised voices and accusations cast that the city had not been doing enough to help. One woman cried at the lectern, while another wished an eternal damnation to those sitting on the committee, who in turn struggled to maintain Robert’s Rules of Order despite regular interruptions.

“We’re understanding to your emotion,” said alderman George Withus, who briefly related his own flood recovery experience.

Part of the problem seemed to be rooted in confusion over the future siting of the Total Flood Protection footprint. City finance director Cindy Hemphill explained that properties that will likely fall under that footprint have been identified, but the findings have not been publicized. Around 350 letters were said to have been sent out informing applicable property owners of the plan, but no buyout letters as of yet.

“We aren’t looking at eminent domain” yet, she said, hoping at the present for voluntary sales at market rates. “There may be tweaking as the project is engineered,” Hemphill went on to explain, but residents who have not received a letter yet are sure their property falls under the future flood protection footprint should contact her office at 857-4774.

For others still using the temporary units but who have not filed an application for extension, the committee warned that the City of Minot will begin taking steps for their units’ removal from Oct. 16 on. Those residents are advised to contact the planning department at 857-4100, before it is too late.