Pine County is moving closer to completing the 2012 flood project.
Last week, the county approved the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) payment to the county, which is approximately $4.1 million. This will cover 75 percent of the flood buyout acquisition and demolition program, with the additional 25 percent paid by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The total project cost is $5.5 million.
Land Services Director Kelly Schroeder gave an update on the project to the county board last Tuesday in Sandstone.
Thirty-two properties are on the potential acquisition list, but the owners are not forced to accept the buyout, Schroeder told commissioners.
Originally, the project was supposed to be paid for by the county and then get reimbursed. County Auditor Cathy Clemmer talked to state Sen. Tony Lourey and state Rep. Tim Faust about how this would hurt the cash flow of the county. The state will now advance this money to the county.
The first buyout closing is March 26 with a second one set for June 25. The contract calls for bringing the property back to green space within 90 days.
Commissioner Curt Rossow of Willow River asked what would happen if properties flooded again this spring before the buyout. Schroeder said she hoped that people would remove their belongings by then. She added the contractor would have to wait to start the demolitions if flooding happens again this spring.
The entire project is supposed to be completed by February 27, 2015.
Properties that are bought out will not be owned by the county, but go directly to the city or township where the people live.
The buyouts called for the assessed value plus 10 percent. Schroeder said all but one of these property owners was happy with the proposed buyout price.
Commissioners pointed out one benefit of the buyout — there is a new Little League baseball field proposed on land which, in the past, had the flooded out homes. In all, 112 improved properties were affected by the flooding, 67 of them substantially.
During commissioner reports, Commissioner Steve Hallan of Pine City reported on a recent legislative conference. While there, he said he learned more about Legacy funds and said the county should consider those funds for a trail between Pine and Kanabec counties.
Commissioner Steve Chaffee of Hinckley reported that Riverwood, formerly known as Five County Mental Health, has had substantial cash flow problems.
The county uses Riverwood for its mental health patients.
“We need to come up with a plan B,” Chaffee said.
The organization requested counties pay up front, something Pine was not able to do. The organization owes Pine County $60,000 currently, but that deficit was previously at $89,000 three or four months ago.
“What threw a monkey wrench in it was Mille Lacs County pulling out,” Chaffee said.
The organization is going to send a letter to Mille Lacs requiring them to pay what they agreed when the five counties formed this entity.
In his report, Commissioner Matt Ludwig said County Health and Human Services Director Patrick Bruflat should be recognized for the work he has done for the county.
“It is not an easy job to do,” Ludwig said.