Senator John Hoeven today said he's working with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to upgrade infrastructure at the Virgil Workman temporary housing site to accommodate permanent residences, as well as to donate temporary housing units to the community. Hoeven said the move would help residents transition to secure, permanent housing and, at the same time, save taxpayer dollars as opposed to removing the existing system. The senator gathered a high-level group of federal, state, county and city leaders in Minot to coordinate and advance housing, infrastructure and flood protection projects.
Hoeven told the group that the delegation received assurances from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate Monday that the agency expects to extend its temporary housing program in Minot until June 2013, and that they're finalizing a policy for selling or donating FEMA housing units to residents in need of long-term housing.
To prepare for sales and donations, the senator today asked Col. Michael Price, commander of the St. Paul District of the Corps, to work with FEMA to bring the sewage system up to city code standards at the Virgil Workman temporary housing park, which is currently the site of about 500 FEMA housing units. During last year's flooding, the Corps installed the infrastructure quickly to accommodate FEMA's temporary housing units, but the systems need to be upgraded for permanent dwellings. City officials estimate the cost of upgrading the system would be a fraction of the cost to remove it and restore the property to its original condition. Having to relocate the FEMA units would add costs. Once the infrastructure is up to specs, however, the private sector and non-profit organizations could step in make the FEMA units available for longer-term use.
"The uncertainty of not knowing where you're going to live adds to the stress of being displaced," Hoeven said. "Upgrading the system would not only be far less expensive for FEMA than tearing it out, but will also give residents in temporary housing the certainty and peace of mind to know they have an affordable place to live until housing capacity catches up."
New Floodplain Map
Hoeven also asked FEMA to complete an updated floodplain map in timely fashion to allow Hazard Mitigation program funding to be used for more home buyouts. Hoeven pressed FEMA officials to quickly finalize their evaluation of new data the agency and Corps are using to draw a new flood plain map. The delegation had called on the agency to reevaluate some public infrastructure projects in Minot that had previously been denied federal support, including many homes that are outside the current 100-year river flow level. As a result, they do not meet the cost to benefit ratio necessary to be funded through Hazard Mitigation.
Hoeven and the delegation have repeatedly pressed several Administration officials -- including those at FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House -- to allow for maximum flexibility when utilizing Hazard Mitigation funds for recovery projects in Minot.
ADDITIONAL MINOT INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
In the course of the day, Hoeven also participated in a number of events marking progress in the city's efforts to build infrastructure in the aftermath of last year's severe flooding.
"With new schools, new housing projects, new retail shopping, and a new sewer system, Minot and Ward County are making real progress in rebuilding their growing community," Hoeven said. "Now we need to keep our momentum and make sure we're using federal dollars as effectively as possible."
Erik Ramstad Middle School Groundbreaking
This afternoon, Hoeven and city leaders will break ground for Minot's new Erik Ramstad Middle School. The Minot School District has received more than $49.5 million in FEMA Public Assistance funding to date, including $27.25 million to help replace the Ramstad Middle School.
Southgate Addition Housing and Retail Development Groundbreaking
The senator also participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new residential and commercial development project, known as the Southgate Addition, which will develop a hotel, 70 extended stay housing units, 371 multi-family residential units and a 180,000 square foot retail center. The project will cost an estimated $109 million and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2013.
New Southside Sewer System
Earlier in the day, Hoeven was joined by city leaders and Corps officials to recognize funding for a $2 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 594 grant, which will be used to help restore essential sanitary sewer infrastructure. Hoeven and the delegation have asked Corps officials to approve federal assistance to expand its sanitary sewer system south of the city.
Washington Townhomes Housing Project
Last week, the senator helped break ground on the Washington Townhomes housing project in Minot, which uses a $700,000 grant from HUD's HOME program and federal low income housing tax credits to finance construction of 64 new low-income residential housing units.
Minot Flood Recovery Federal Assistance Totals
To date more than $565 million in federal support has been secured to aid the people of Minot, including more than $200 million in regular and disaster housing assistance to address housing shortages caused by flooding and rapid economic growth.