FORTUNA, N.D. — Once an emergency home for a Minot flood victim, the mobile home serving as Fortuna's new city hall continues to give taxpayers their money's worth.
Officially known as Federal Emergency Management temporary housing units but more commonly known as FEMA trailers, the white, boxy mobile homes brought in by the hundreds after the 2011 Minot flood trickled out throughout the region after the emergency use ended. The 266 units sold to flood survivors went into the private sector. Others went to reservations or to federal surplus property.
Surplus property is where Fortuna's city hall building had started its journey after leaving Minot. Divide County, in the northwestern corner of the state, obtained some of the units to house sheriff's deputies at a time when housing was tight. About two years ago, the county decided it no longer needed the units so put them on a public auction.
Fortuna Mayor Gary Rust said there were three units in the auction, and his Divide County community was fortunate to get one for $8,000.
Fortuna had been without a permanent building for its city hall for some time. Rust said they used the basement of the senior citizens center for a while. It lacked handicapped accessibility so they moved to the old school. The school wasn't feasible to heat and ended up being sold.
"We started using whatever facility we could," Rust said. The town built a room on the side of the local bar and used that for a time.
The decision to purchase the former FEMA trailer didn't instantly create a home for city hall, though, because the trailer needed some work, the Minot Daily News reported .
"The interior was in really good shape," Rust said. Taking out the wall that separated the small bedroom created a larger office space.
"With a population of 30 people, you don't need too big of an office space," Rust said. The trailer can seat about 10 people, so if a bigger crowd is expected, meetings can be moved to the senior center.
As for the exterior, the trailer had been through a hail storm and the vinyl siding needed replacement. A ramp for handicapped accessibility also had to be built. Although the city hired a Crosby contractor to help with the work, the city council did much of it themselves. Rust donated the lot.
With just minor details to be finished, this month the three-member council held its first official meeting in the new city hall. Rust, who has been acting auditor because no one has been found to fill the position, has been doing the bookwork in the new office since Dec. 1. There are no set office hours, but residents can call Rust to arrange a meeting there if they have any city business to conduct.
Having spent about $28,000 on the trailer and renovations, the community feels pretty good about its investment.
FEMA's temporary housing mission in the Souris Valley had come to a close Sept. 24, 2013, after 27 months of post-flood assistance.
In the aftermath of the 2011 Souris River flooding, FEMA had brought in 2,052 manufactured homes to address the severe housing shortage in the region and provide shelter for 1,960 households.