An effort to get county support for the purchase of the Ione Larson farm to add to the Choice Wildlife Management Area again failed at the November 28 county board meeting. Mike Tenny, Department of Natural Resources, and Robert McGillivray, Trust for Public Land (non-profit conservation organization) had requested the resolution of support at an October 3 meeting.
At that time commissioner Gary Peterson had requested input from Norway and Preble Townships. The 379 acres straddles both townships. The land now has five owners, members of the Ione Larson Family Trust. Tenny met with both township boards. He said there was no opposition from the township boards. Tenny said road maintenance was also discussed.
The plan was to use Outdoor Heritage Funds with the DNR also contributing Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) funds. McGillivray explained due to the use of RIM funding, county board approval was needed. He noted that this RIM funding, used for DNR purchases, is not the same as the RIM program used by private landowners. Commissioner Duane Bakke suggested that the use of RIM funds allows a higher price to be paid for the land.
Payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) would be made to the county on the property if this sale went through, which would be comparable to property tax revenue.
Brett Larson, representing the trust, insisted the price wasn’t higher, but that the price was set by an appraisal.
Bakke said he still objected to the sale because of loss of tillable ground. He recognizes the right of landowners to sell to who they want, but he wasn’t interested in giving more tillable land to the DNR.
Larson said the five owners were happy with this buyer and they were concerned about the preservation of the land. The offer was fair market value. It is important for the new owner to be a good steward of the land.
Peterson signaled his concern had been satisfied when the township boards were allowed to give their input. Commissioner Marc Prestby noted he had voted yes last time, but recognizes now the concern for the tillable land. Tenny commented that all but about 30 acres of the tillable land is highly erodible. Some of the owners do not want to subdivide the land, separate the tillable land.
Commissioner Mitch Lentz acknowledged it is difficult to stand in the way of individuals doing what is wanted with their property. Larson maintained this is a buyer that we are confident will manage the land the way we want.
Peterson made a motion to support the purchase. The motion died for lack of a second.
Other business in brief
• The 2018 CEDA contract was approved with no increase from last year. Because of the recent turnover of EDA directors CEDA agreed to a 0% increase. EDA director Marty Walsh has been with the county about six weeks. He said it has been a smooth transition. He said he has met with every city council and EDA board and will meet with township boards. Commissioners want the county EDA to reach out county wide. Some smaller cities don’t have an EDA. Prestby said this is a tool for them to use.
• Brian Krenz, Eric Leitzen, and Bob Coe of Historic Bluff Country (HBC) introduced themselves. Krenz said they are making changes and will be more of a presence than in the past. They emphasized the importance of the Highway 16 Scenic Byway, calling it one of the biggest assets of the region. The region HBC represents is south of Interstate 90 to the Iowa border, east to the Mississippi River and west to the Shooting Star State Trail.
Krenz maintained that when you appropriate money to HBC and similar organizations, you are investing in your communities. He suggested communities make $9 back for every $1 invested. Krenz acknowledged they have went through a rough time. But, a regional tourism authority is needed to promote the area. A 2018 appropriation of $4,955 was requested. This would be $1 per capita of the county’s population which lives outside of incorporated cities.
• Cindy Blagsvedt, county assessor, reviewed the 2017 property tax law. Property classified as agricultural land, rural vacant land and managed forest will have a significant change. Excluding the home, garage, and one surrounding acre on properties with the preceding classifications for taxes payable in 2018, a credit equal to 40% of the tax on the property attributable to the school district bonded debt levies will be received. (Formula equals net tax capacity times 40% times school debt rate equals credit.)
• The resignation of Samantha Drogemuller, home health aide, was approved with thanks, effective November 27.
• There was considerable discussion of the Paid Time Off (PTO) policy. Kristina Kohn, human resources, said the Local 49ers have approved the policy effective in 2018. Kohn said she was looking for direction from the board on the policy as it applies to non-union employees. Bakke said the dates in the policy presented need to be a year later.
Changes in the Discipline policy were discussed. It will come back for a second reading at the next board meeting.
• Jessica Erickson, director of nursing, and Brenda Pohlman, health educator, gave an update on the State Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) Grant. The funding is through the Minnesota Department of Health. The budget for next year is $84,776. SHIP funds are used in areas of child care, community, health care, school, and work places. Pohlman stated all HUD housing will be required to be smoke free. SHIP funds will in part be used to educate and let smokers know their options for tobacco cessation.
• The Fillmore County 2018 contract with Workforce Development, Inc. was approved and has the same amount of available funds as last year, not to exceed $117,786.
• Two resolutions of sponsorship to Carrolton Township were approved for the applications for Local Road Improvement Program funds. The program is administered by MnDot and makes available up $750,000 to apply to a local road project (for communities with a population under 5,000). Both proposed projects are looking to do construction in 2018. One is to pave Goodview Drive into Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center and the other is to pave Heron Road into the Old Barn Resort.
• An access permit for Gary and Joyce Hellickson to widen an existing field driveway, Section 15, Carimona Township was approved.
An access permit for Edward and Cheryl Brekke to relocate an existing driveway access for a new building site, Section 18, Carrolton Township was approved.
An access permit for Gerald and Elaine Hellickson to relocate an existing field driveway access, Section 22, Carimona Township was approved.
An access permit for Paul and Louanne Hamann to widen an existing driveway access for a new building site, Section 13, Fountain Township was approved.
• Chief deputy sheriff Kevin Beck applied for a Minnesota 2017 State Homeland Security Program Grant (SHSP) to request 50% matching funds for Fillmore County Fire Departments for ARMER interoperable equipment (portable radios). The board agreed to enter into an agreement with the state, SE MN Regional Radio Board, and Olmsted County, fiscal agent for the SE MN RRB, for the 2017 SHSP. If the grant is awarded ($31,202), the fire departments will pay the 50% match. Beck noted it is a competitive grant, there is no guarantee we will get it. It won’t cost the county anything.
• The Minnesota Counties Insurance Trust Dividends were received in the amount of $87,780. The funds will be put into the Infrastructure Fund to be used for Courthouse Security and a small amount to be used for safety training for two individuals.