Longer flood recovery means additional cost for city

Getting federal assistance money to qualified flood victims is taking longer than expected, and that is increasing administrative costs for the city in its Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery programs.

The Minot City Council’s Finance and Improvements Committee voted Monday to recommend the council extend an existing two-year contract with CDM Smith from May 7, 2014, to the end of this year at a cost of $823,026. CDM Smith has been administering programs related to infrastructure and home acquisition, rehabilitation and reconstruction that are being funded through the city’s CDBG-DR grants.

Some infrastructure programs have taken longer than projected, such as the downtown parking structures that were bid twice and delayed. Other delays occurred with the pump station for the Sixth Street Southwest underpass, which also was bid twice.

But much of the extra time needed under the city’s first CDBG-DR grant will go to complete the homeowners’ rehabilitation and reconstruction program and to conduct an added program for small rental rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Steve Wolsfeld with CDM Smith told the committee that the homeowners program has taken longer than expected in part because people were slow to apply. The 60-day application period was extended, generating numerous other applicants, he said.

The program received 192 applications, of which 106 homeowners are completing the home rehabilitation or construction process.

A memo provided to the council noted that 47 homes have been rehabilitated and another 14 built new. Additional homes are under construction or finishing the paperwork to begin construction.

The application period for the small rental rehabilitation and reconstruction just opened. Landlords with properties of one to four units are eligible for interest-free, forgivable loans in exchange for offering the units as affordable housing.

CDM Smith employs 10 full-time staff at its offices in Arrowhead Shopping Mall, of which about half are engaged in casework with program applicants.

In response to questions about the cost of the extension, Wolsfeld said the extension is a continuation of terms established in the original $6 million contract. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development limits the amount of a CDBG-DR grant that can be spent on administration.

“We are under the acceptable percentage, even with the addition,” Wolsfeld said.

City finance director Cindy Hemphill confirmed that the administrative costs remain within range but noted the additional cost will bring them “very close to the cap.” Minot received about $67 million in its first CDBG-DR grant.