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Mott completes third FEMA buyout

MOTT -- The Cannonball River flows through the town of Mott. While it is used recreationally for fishing or swimming, it also causes flooding that has wrecked havoc on homeowners west of the city's dike. The older part of Mott, which lies on the ...

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The newest home relocated in Mott for the FEMA home buyout plan now sits in its new location waiting for a basement to be installed. (Press Photo by Kalsey Stults)
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MOTT - The Cannonball River flows through the town of Mott.

While it is used recreationally for fishing or swimming, it also causes flooding that has wrecked havoc on homeowners west of the city’s dike.

The older part of Mott, which lies on the western part of town, has battled flooding for decades and pictures can be found online of the floods from the middle of the century.

Mott Mayor Troy Mosbrucker remembers the water reaching the roadway and being several feet deep.

Because of the magnitude of flooding, the federal government started a buyout program with the city in 1997, that they also extended to 2007 and 2014.

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Mosbrucker guesses that since 1997, the government has bought more than 40 homes in Mott that were in the flood zone.

As a city official, he is glad to know the residents will be safe if another major flood hits the town.

“It takes a lot of pressure off them and the city,” he said. “We know they are safe. It gets them out of the flood zone and it’s one less thing for them to worry about. ”

In the late ’80s Mosbrucker said the town was trying to determine ways to keep the flood zone from constantly flooding during the winter and decided to build a new bridge, but it was to no avail.

“We replaced the bridge, because we always thought the bridge was causing the flooding,” he said. “There’d always be an ice jam there and the ice would jam up all around it and push the water down, but no (it didn’t stop the flooding).”

So when the opportunity was presented to Mott to participate in the FEMA buyout program, they started the process and made the best of it that they could.

With assistance from Roosevelt-Custer Regional Council for Development in Dickinson, the city started the long process of approaching homeowners, appraising the homes, auctioning them and finally cleaning up the area to make it look as it did before it was settled for residential property.

The latest set of buyouts saw three houses purchased in Mott. One was destroyed, another destroyed save for the garage and the last was bought by a resident of Mott.

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Gene Buresh, executive director with RCRCD, notified Mosbrucker that there were funds to allow the latest set of buyouts from the 2007 flood.

“They had money left over the presidential disaster declaration from the 2007 flood, so it was a matter of use it or lose it,” he said. “The department of emergency services in Bismarck administers those funds for FEMA. They notified us that there were funds available.”

Mosbrucker, who has been around for all three buyouts, said this time, with the oil boom, it caused particular problems that they had never experienced before.

“The biggest trouble we had this time around was finding appraisers with what was happening in Dickinson,” he said. “We couldn’t find appraisers to come down to appraise the homes.”

The appraisals are done with no cost to the homeowner and is all a part of the process of the buyout.

Buresh said the funding for the buyout breaks down with FEMA donating 75 percent, the state of North Dakota donating 10 percent and Mott closing the gap at 15 percent.

Mosbrucker said the 15 percent is usually reimbursed through their gift-in-kind cleanup efforts after the houses are relocated.

Buresh said some of the houses in the past were used as training tools before they were demolished for the city’s North Dakota Army National Guard unit and its fire department.

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Most properties in the worst-hit area of Mott’s flood zone had been moved prior to the latest buyout but Buresh said there were still potential homes that they approached.

“We started out with five potential properties,” he said. “(We) made offers on four, and one backed out before that.”

Mosbrucker said there’s no pressure on homeowner who can back out at anytime or say no to the buyout.

“It’s hard for some of the homeowners to leave their house because they’ve lived there their whole life,” he said. “It’s an emotional thing for them.”

One homeowner who agreed to the buyout was the owner of what is now known as The Crocus Inn which now resides in Regent as a bed and breakfast.

The house was sold at auction for $5,000 in 1997 Buresh said.

A 2,500-square-foot house, which was the last house to be auctioned, went for $1,000, while the garage salvaged from another house went for twice as much.

“This time around, the appraisals were much higher because of the oil basically,” Buresh said. “The home values were much higher.”

That meant good deals for the old and new homeowners.

He said the earlier buyouts were seeing appraisal values around $15,000.

“Where do you go with $15,000?” he asked.

The land where the houses used to reside now are owned by the city.

“You can’t put any permanent structure on the properties,” Buresh said. “The city owns it in perpetuity and can’t sell it.”

The city is currently using some of the vacant lots to house campers during harvest for seasonal workers.

They have full hookups with water, sewer and electric. The money that is made from the rental of the locations goes directly to the Mott Park Board, which uses it to support to local swimming pool.

It seems to be a winning formula.

“During harvest, we turned people away because we don’t have enough,” Mosbrucker said with a laugh.

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