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County asks governor to suspend Green Acre Law changes


Fri, Sep 26th, 2008
Posted in Government

Preston - The Fillmore County Board at their regular meeting on September 23 passed a resolution asking Governor Pawlenty to "suspend the implementation of changes to the Green Acres law that were implemented in Chapter 366 of the 2008 session." The request will be sent to the governor and legislators.

"Green Acres" or the Agricultural Property Tax Law is a tax deferment. The law allows bare farmland to be valued for tax purposes on its agricultural value rather than a highest use value.

With this law if the land is transferred or sold and used for other than agricultural purposes, the green acre deferment is ended and the taxes are calculated on the non agricultural valuation of the land for the past three years. The law was changed in the 2008 Legislative Session with the passage of Chapter 366 which was an act "relating to the financing and operation of state and local government."

Chairman Randy Dahl asked for the discussion to be added to the day's agenda. Other counties are requesting the new changes to the law be suspended. He explained that the new law has some unintended consequences. The changes will "affect property taxes for farmers and land owners" in the county.

Commissioner Duane Bakke explained that the green acre law in Fillmore County has been used as a land preservation program largely with non tillable land. In other counties the green acre law has been used to allow farmers to keep developable property, often tillable land, and to be taxed at its agriculture value rather than its significantly higher value for development.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud added that we need to know the intent before January 1 as it will affect 2009 taxes and could put a burden on some people. Dahl explained that the changes would cause the taxes to be reapportioned among tax payers and would not affect the total amount of the levy.

Amendments to Personnel Policy

Ashley Stinson, Human Resources, asked the board to consider three amendments to the personnel policy. The first was added compensation for employees working "out of class" for more than 30 days. This would be for an employee doing work above their pay grade while another employee is out for medical or other reasons for over 30 days. Duane Bakke suggested that the amendment was going to cause problems and felt it wasn't workable. Commissioner Marc Prestby argued that in the private market, other employees just chip in to get the job done when one employee is off for an extended period. He added that if an employee can add another's work load maybe there is not enough work to justify the employee's time.

Randy Dahl insisted that the policy amendment was necessary to guide department heads on how they utilize employees. Chuck Amunrud added that operating without a policy can create more problems and that the policy can always be rewritten if there are problems. The policy change was approved with Bakke and Prestby voting against.

Policy changes to require employees to wear an Identification Card starting January 1, 2009, and changes in the drug testing rules were approved unanimously.

Training for Jail Planning

Recently, Sheriff Daryl Jensen, County Coordinator Karen Brown, Jail Administrator James Fenske, and Commissioner Marc Prestby attended a training session by the National Institute of Corrections for the purpose of planning new institutions. Jensen added that attending the training session shows the Department of Corrections that the county recognizes the problems with the current facility. The jail is past its expected life of 35 years.

Jensen noted that it takes about five years to plan and build. He emphasized that the training session warned county participants that if you can't afford to build, don't build. Jensen said that Fillmore County is only at the first step of many, recognizing the need. He made it clear that remodeling often costs more than building a new building. He said that we need to decide what steps to take.

Sheriff Jensen listed four options: do nothing, remodel, go without a jail, or build a stand alone jail. He added that some of the things passed this day will keep us in compliance with the Department of Corrections for now. Those items included the planned purchase of used stainless steel items for the jail kitchen at restaurant auctions, the purchase of glass for the visitation rooms, and the purchase of televisions for cell blocks due to new classification. As part of the jail inspection, changes are required making jailors put people in confined areas for lengthy periods of time, causing the need for the television purchases which together will cost about $1,000. Fenske explained that commissary money will be used which by statute has to be used for the inmates.

Dahl noted that over the past several years a lot of effort has been made to explore other options rather than build a stand alone jail. One possibility was to build a regional jail which has ran into road blocks with the state. Prestby added that the training was informational and that the process will go on for several more years. The next step is for the problem to go back to the Jail Committee.

• Sheriff Jensen asked for and received approval to have the guide wires on the radio tower repaired. He explained that they were loose from years of ice and that the problem was serious The work will be done by a company out of LaCrescent and will cost $2400.

• Agreements with the Department of Corrections and the cities of Spring Valley and Rushford were approved to continue the "Sentence to Serve" program. Jensen noted that both Spring Valley and Rushford have expressed interest in doing it again next year.

• The board approved an agreement for turning nonpayment or 'dead end' accounts over to a financial consultant for collections. Fenske said that the county pays nothing if no money is collected. Dahl was concerned about digging the hole deeper for some people with late fees. Jensen suggested that if they don't have accountability, some people won't pay.

Citizen Input

Jacque Hahn, director of marketing and sales, of Artesian Fresh, a start-up company near LeRoy updated the board on the success of the company during the monthly time for citizens input. The discovery of the artesian well water was made in 2005 and is owned by Ben and Diane Nolt. There is no chemical treatment needed for artesian water which is naturally filtered.

Hahn said that the company has bottled the water for less than five months and distributes to many grocery and convenience stores. The bottles are manufactured on site. The company employs nine people. A school class from LeRoy is to be the first class to tour the facilities. Amunrud said that the company is a true success story.

Award

Emergency Management Director Deborah Teske has been awarded Emergency Management Director of the Year Award for the State of Minnesota for her work dealing with the aftermath of the 2007 floods.

Public Hearing

A public hearing was held on the Rural Addressing Amendment. Karen Brown said that letters had been sent out to all of the townships. Townships will still be responsible for reporting missing signs, but the cost of replacement will be borne by the county. County Recorder David Kiehne noted that most number signs are damaged by snow removal equipment. The first number sign issued to a resident marking a new address will be the home owner's responsibility and costs a total of $100. The amendment was approved.

Assessor

Cynthia Blagsvedt was appointed to her first four year term effective January 1, 2009, as county assessor. She is currently working in that position.

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