On Jan. 18, the Minot City Council approved a set of guidelines for a voluntary property acquisition process for the city. This set of guidelines is a roadmap to explain how the City of Minot will administer the voluntary purchasing of homes/properties. The intent of the program is to assist the Magic City in recovery efforts as a result of the flood of 2011.
As a precursor to initiating the voluntary property acquisition process, the city sent out letters to a first group of properties. These are all properties that we would like to consider acquiring regardless of permanent flood protection plan decisions. The acquisition of these homes would provide flood mitigation benefit and would provide access and open space for emergency flood protection measures. Being as prepared as possible this spring and summer for any potential flooding is a high priority for the city.
The North Dakota State Water Commission, at its Feb. 2 meeting, approved the city's request and will fund 75 percent of the cost of the voluntary property acquisition of an initial 117 properties. These properties are spread out throughout northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest Minot. To find a list of properties the city may be interested in acquiring, as released in mid-January, visit the website (www.minotrecoveryinfo.com/resources).
Some have asked the question, how many of these properties have traded hands since the flood? A good question. As of the end of January, only one has a new owner and that home is on property currently assessed at roughly $50,000. The other 116 properties, to the best of the city's knowledge through title tracking, are all still in the ownership of the individual who had them during the flood of 2011.
Looking at the bigger picture, the city is a good steward of the funds as entrusted by taxpayers. Acquiring these properties as soon as possible will go a long way to benefiting the entire region should we have to fight a flood prior to permanent joint flood protection implementation. No speculator or investor in the first phase of voluntary property acquisitions will be making a huge windfall in profits based on the use of taxpayer's dollars.
Others have asked what the timeline is for starting this first phase of voluntary property acquisitions. With the approval from the N.D. State Water Commission for $17.75 million in support, the city is now identifying where the 25 percent match ($5.92 million) will come from. With various options available, the city is hoping to receive spending approval and get started on voluntary property acquisitions this spring.
The question of how much the city will offer to property owners interested in the voluntary phase has also been asked many times. We recognize that no amount of money can truly make a family or individual ravaged by the Mouse River in 2011 whole again. The voluntary property acquisition uses a straightforward formula; the city's offer to property owners will be based on the pre-flood assessed value of the property, plus 15 percent to reflect current market value. We hope that the community views this offer as a fair one for those impacted by the flood.
This piece of assistance from the city and taxpayers will be a big step in restoring the magic to damaged parts of our community.
(Curt Zimbelman is mayor of Minot)