At the last meeting, the Rushford Village, Minn., council set a public hearing for September 5 to discuss the possibility of demolition of the bridge on Village Road. While the village and county intended to make some repairs to the structure, they could not secure the needed property easements.
At the August 15 meeting, City Clerk Mary Miner clarified that one property owner was unwilling to sign the easement agreement. That person later contacted the village and agreed to sign the easement. Fillmore County drafted the agreements and the bridge repairs will proceed in 2024. The village canceled the public hearing.
Miner indicated the village will have up to $20,000 into the bridge project.
During Planning & Zoning, Administrator Jon Pettit stated the board met with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about a property. Legacy Land Trust is looking to purchase the property which surrounds the Rushford Municipal Airport and then deed it to the DNR Forestry Service for ownership and management. Part of the Planning & Zoning discussion included lost tax revenue once the trust transfers the land to the DNR. Planning & Zoning supports the purchase but would like to address the taxing situation.
“They brought up a lot of new information that I don’t think any of us were aware of,” stated Pettit. “The county views us as a city, which we are, not a township. Had we been a township we would have gotten a portion of it. I’m not sure what we can do about it as a council. I’m sure we’re the only entity treated this way.”
The parcel provided the village with $6,700 in property tax revenue in 2022. According to Pettit, the state can provide Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to the village, which they did until roughly six years ago.
“As a city, we have lots and lots of DNR-managed land,” reminded Councilor Travis Link.
According to the DNR’s website, there are 5.6 million acres of state land in Minnesota. Eleven percent of the land in Minnesota is state land, 6% county-managed state land, and 7% federal or other land. However, a large portion of this sits within the village’s 33 square miles.
The state pays approximately $36 million annually in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to local governments to offset property taxes not collected on state and tax-forfeit lands. Pettit indicated the state provided this PILT to the village until roughly six years ago and now chooses not to.
Miner also noted it’s her understanding that the county commissioners and Representative Greg Davids can “do something about it” and that many email requests have been sent to Davids regarding the issue, with no response. The council was encouraged to get ahold of county commissioners and legislators individually. The city will also send a letter to the county board.
“It would be nice to keep that tax base or at least recoup some of the loss,” stated Councilor Bob Hart.
“The rest of the village has to make up for the loss. The money’s got to come from other sources,” added Mayor Dennis Overland.
The council also discussed a recent request by a resident to put dust control on the entire western portion of County Line Drive to mitigate rough road conditions. Public Works Supervisor Trenten Chiglo advised against it, noting it’s no guarantee to fix the issue and that it will harden the road making it unable to be maintained.
“It’s costly to put that amount of dust control on the road, and where do you stop? Everyone is going to want dust control on their roads then,” he cautioned. “A lot of traffic goes up and down that road. Once they start, it’s a domino effect. County Line is almost completely sand, so it’s hard to keep a shape on it.”
The council took no action on the request.
With the passing of the new cannabis laws in Minnesota, the village again updated its draft Employee Guide to include language referencing cannabis usage in the drug/alcohol portion of the guide.
“You definitely want that in there,” noted City Attorney Joe O’Koren. “It’s very clear and very concise.”
Lastly, the council conducted a preliminary discussion on the 2024 budget. The council was encouraged to bring forward any item/project of possible cost forward for consideration. Clerk Miner will take the suggestions into her work, determining budget goals and constraints. The council will ultimately use the draft budget to set the village’s preliminary levy next month.
“Next meeting, we’ll see where we’re at and what we want to tweak,” said Miner.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, September 5, at 7 p.m. at city hall. A public hearing for a proposed ordinance change will be held, before the regular meeting, at 6:45 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend.