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Board hears proposed land exchange

Fri, Jan 26th, 2001
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Monday, January 29, 2001

Last Tuesday, the Fillmore County Board learned of a proposed land exchange between the DNR and Chatfield area surveyor Geoffry Griffin.

The local DNR Forester, John Kelly, informed the board of the proposal made to the DNR by Griffin and his wife, whereby the Griffins would obtain 163.5 acres of DNR land along the Root River in sections 34 and 35 of Pilot Mound Township in exchange for 80 acres adjoining Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center.

According to the Griffins application for exchange, the 80 acre tract that they currently own is the only privately owned parcel that separates Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center from the states Brightsdale forest unit.

Referring to the parcel as a "donut hole of private land within the Brightsdale Unit," the Griffins document stated that if the state did not end up with the land, the best use for the parcel would be a 10-lot subdivision overlooking the river valley. Their application showed the parcel divided into lots.

The parcel the Griffins would like to acquire in the exchange is a 163-acre tract just up the Root River from Eagle Bluff that is contiguous to other parcels the Griffins already own in sections 34, 27 and 26. The 163 acres currently owned by the DNR has a long frontage on the river, but separates the Griffins property from the Root River. The 80 acres the state would acquire, if the exchange were approved, also has a long river frontage.

The Griffins application cites that this exchange would benefit both parties as it would allow a consolidation of holdings for both themselves and the DNR, and would alleviate some access problems during hunting season.

The application for exchange was made to the DNR Land Exchange Coordinator in St. Paul, and is now circulating to the local DNR office for review and comment. Forester Kelly presented the proposal to the County Board for information and comment only, not for Board approval.

Both Kelly and the DNR internal memo that circulated with the exchange application stated that the land the state would acquire in the exchange is more valuable to the DNR management plan for the area than is the land that the Griffins would like to receive. Kelly did note, however, that the 163-acre tract is probably more valuable from a real estate standpoint, than is the 80-acre Griffin property.

The DNR will be accepting comments on the proposed exchange until February 9, 2001. The Fillmore County Board did not take any action on the proposal.

Economic Development

The Board approved a resolution to establish an exploratory committee to look at the creation of an economic development authority for Fillmore County.

According to the resolution, the establishment of a county economic development authority would allow the county the use of various financing tools for economic development that are available through state legislation.

Recently, the county sent letters to cities and townships and other development agencies asking for representatives to serve on the exploratory committee for about two months.

As part of the approved resolution, the following people were appointed to the exploratory committee: Donald Solberg and Rodney Koliha for the Township Association, Eleanor Stultz for Fountain, Merlin W. Christenson for Ostrander, David Runkel or Joel Dhein for the City of Harmony, Kenneth Graner for Lanesboro, Larry Bartelson for the City of Rushford, Michael Martin for Chatfield, Brian Krambeer for Tri-County Electric, and Jeremy LaCroix with the Bluff Country Multi-County Housing Authority.

The exploratory committee will study the issue, and make a recommendation to the Board on whether the county should establish an economic development authority. First District Commissioner Randy Dahl will represent the Board on the Committee.

Tax Assessments

Rather than wait until the February 6 meeting as previously decided, the Board continued its discussion on the rising tax assessments in the county.

At the January 16 meeting, Commissioner Dahl had asked the Board to hold discussions on the assessment process, with the intent of understanding why property valuations are increasing so radically.

Assessor Robert Picket joined the discussion, explaining that his department has spent the last year reassessing properties that hadnt been looked at in over four years. During that time property values have increased dramatically and are reflected in the price of real estate sold over the past four years.

Commissioner Dahl expressed his concern that when an entire city is reassessed all at once the resulting rise in property taxes can discourage growth. According to Dahl, the city of St. Charles divides the city into four sections for conducting assessments. Pickett offered that Fillmore County could do the same and that he could look into it.
Labor Negotiations

The Board continued its negotiating sessions with the representatives of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local # on a new contract for highway and resource recovery workers.

Work has continued on the contract process for several months, as the two parties try to reach agreement on a new two-year contract. Several counter offers have passed between the County Board and the Union, with the latest offer from the Union asking for an average increase of just over 10% for the total two year period.

There was no agreement reached at this meeting. Negotiations will continue at the February 6 meeting. The County Board will not meet on January 30, as it is the fifth Tuesday of the month.

Mike McGrath

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