With many homes in the valley still untouched after last summer's flood, First District Health Unit continues to investigate which houses are truly abandoned.
The unit is in the process of contacting homeowners after having inspected homes that do not appear to have been touched since the flood. The city reported about 280 houses throughout the valley were lacking attention earlier this year.
"The good news is there's quite a number of people that called in and said they are rebuilding," said Jim Heckman, director of environmental health at First District. "There are several people that are trying to sell or, if they can't get it sold, will demolish."
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • Are houses like these abandoned, or just waiting to be fixed up? That’s what city officials are trying to find out for certain about a number of Minot homes flooded more than a year ago.
Only a small number of homeowners have not responded to First District's notice of potential demolition. Heckman estimated fewer than 50 haven't replied, but the required wait period to receive a response has not ended for some of them.
Fewer than 20 homeowners failed to respond by the deadline, he said. In these cases, if the houses continue to show no sign of repair, First District can proceed to provide the city with orders to remove the structures for health and safety reasons. However, the owners would receive notice of the pending demolition, which also must be published. The owner can intervene at any time to stop a proceeding by indicating other plans for the house. First District also continues to inspect the homes to determine whether work may have started more recently.
In cases where mortgages are involved, the mortgage holders also receive letters and can intervene to prevent demolition. The Swanson & Warcup law firm in Grand Forks is assisting the city and First District with the legal aspects in that regard.
Cindy Hemphill, city finance director, said the city has no funding at this time to remove any houses, which means the cost would be borne by the property owners in cases where houses must come down. The city hired a contractor to remove 53 damaged houses last winter. The average cost was estimated at that time at $15,000 but actual cost depended on the size of the house.
Heckman said First District discovered that some homeowners scheduled to receive letters went ahead and demolished houses on their own.
He said the unfortunate cases involve military personnel who are stationed overseas. Some have been unable to sell their houses or be physically present to take care of the damaged property.