INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 23, 2012, 07:08 PM

Minot population boom putting a crimp in flood recovery

Minot, ND (WDAY TV) - Right now Minot is stuck in a love-hate relationship with the oil-boom. There are signs it will recover faster and stronger than ever imagined, but it comes with a hefty price put on some of its life-long residents.

Curt Zimbleman – Minot Mayor: “Public safety is paramount. Minot will flood. It'll displace thousands, shut down the heart of the city for weeks and inundate thousands of homes in a way never seen before. The water is rising fast and people need to get evacuated as soon as possible.”

That was Minot almost 1 year ago. The Mouse River flooded and destroyed a third of the town. Right now Minot is stuck in a love-hate relationship with the oil-boom. There are signs it will recover faster and stronger than ever imagined, but it comes with a hefty price put on some of its life-long residents.

It's nicknamed the Magic City after a population boom in the early 1900s. Now, a century later Minot is bustling, and re-earning that trademark name as it's expected to double in size in the next decade.

Nearly a year after the worst flooding they've ever seen, this is still the scene in some parts by the river, it's desolate, smelly, some say it reminds them of a war zone.

With an unprecedented housing shortage spreading east from oil country there's demand for even these homes. Investors can turn them for a hefty profit, and the homeowners who can afford the upfront costs have a chance to see a big return if they stay in their house.

David Waind – Minot City Manager "It has been a mixed blessing. It has helped in many ways."

City Manager Dave Waind says combining that with an exploding tax base, there's reason to believe Minot could recover faster than Grand Forks did when it lost the battle in the '97 food.

David Waind: "They were indicating that they went ten years before they didn't talk so much about the recovery it was more looking forward."

There are downsides to the oil-boom blasting its way into the Minot area, and it didn't take long to find one. Meet Jane Abel - 57 years-old, bad back, bad knees and on a roof tearing nails out of her home.

Jane Abel – Rebuilding Her House: "I keep teasing people I never thought at this age I’d have to start life over."

Her roof is all that could be salvaged, yet she didn't qualify for a city buyout, and in the oil boom housing market the $30,000 she got from FEMA wouldn't be enough to buy a shed to sleep-in. Her only option is to rebuild with an extremely tight budget.

Jane Abel: "We'll probably have the exterior done of the house, have it framed in and I’ll probably have paper walls and like I said picnic tables will be my cabinets."

Flooded out homes and the areas housing boom have created out of control demand for services to get a house running, it's allowing prices to skyrocket. So here's Jane every minute in between sleep and her job doing the prep work so she can afford the contractors.

Jane Abel: "A lot of times I’m here until 12:30 at night time trying to work with a little flash light or flood light."

This demand has put Jane and everyone else who lives in the 1,500 FEMA trailers in a race against time. They need to be out by November, but even if you can afford a plumber or electrician you're on a long waiting list.

Jane Abel: "Trying to build and not having the means of doing it, it's overwhelming it really is I feel like I have an elephant on me sometimes and I can't breathe."

This place could solve the problem. It's called Hope Village. Every week this summer 250 volunteers will be bussed here - people specialized in those services to get a house up and running. For life-long residents like Jane it's their only chance at keeping pace with the booming area.

4,100 homes were affected.

Tags: