Higher land values and updated plans mean that the City of Grand Forks is expecting to spend approximately $5 million more to purchase properties in Johnson Flats, North and South Ruckle as part of its broader flood mitigation plan. Last fall, the city budgeted approximately $12 million to purchase selected properties; now, it’s looking at upwards of $17 million to buy more than 100 properties.
“The total amount of compensation has increased well above the budgeted amount due to increases to fair market value and the approved compensation formula, in many cases matching or exceeding pre-flood value,” a staff report presented to council last month read.
Grand Forks is now looking to recoup some of its projected costs, after the city learned that its land acquisition program may be headed far beyond the budget initially planned for.
While the city reports that more than 40 land deals have already been struck between property owners and Keystone Appraisals, the company managing the project, it is now re-evaluating how it allows salvage to proceed. “Capital preservation is key,” said project manager Justin Dinsdale, who was hired by the city to manage the city’s flood mitigation plan.
“We have to try and get as much value out of some of the stuff – and this is the only stuff we’ve got that’s coming out of it – so that all the tax payers don’t see that hurting down the road,” said Coun. Rod Zielinski.
Property sellers will still be able to salvage from their homes things that are not affixed, such as garden sheds, but the city will look to recoup some its costs through higher-value items such as hot water tanks – things that would typically remain in a home during a normal purchase situation.
Mayor Brian Taylor said that the city would also look to save money in the dike planning portion of the flood mitigation project by seeing how different dike placements could keep them from needing particular properties.
“If we can avoid taking a house, we’re going to save $150 or 200,000 at a time with those kinds of efficiencies as we move forward,” he said. Taylor said that the city has received part of the province’s portion of the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund grant – approximately $22 million of $31 million – and is expecting to soon confirm the agreement with the federal government for invoicing as the project proceeds on the remaining $20 million.
The city has put out a request for proposals to find an engineering firm that will design the final plans for dike placement and other flood mitigation works around Grand Forks.