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Harmony residents raise questions about property tax assessments

Fri, Apr 11th, 2008
Posted in Government

Citizens of Harmony came to the City Council meeting on April 8 to discuss their property taxes and the assessments made on their homes recently. Fred Horihan and Cindy Blagsvadt from the Fillmore County Assessor's Office were there to answer any questions and to give the council a summary of homes sold in town in the last year.

According to Horihan, twelve homes had been sold in Harmony over the last year. They did a "mass assessment" of homes in Harmony based on sales. Horihan explained that the aim was not to hit every house for exactly what it's worth, but to get them so they are proportional to other houses of a similar size in town.

There were a few people at the meeting asking about why the values on their homes had gone up, as well as their property taxes. Heidi Bigalk was concerned that her home had been valued at over $100,000, but other houses on her street have been unable to be sold for less than that.

"We can't go by that," said Horihan. "We can only go by sales."

He said that she should look into what other homes the same size are appraised at or selling for. He also said that their numbers are about a year behind, so if the market goes down this year, it will reflect on next year's statements.

Lynn Arnold, who owns the Big Woods Graphics building on Main Street, was also at the meeting. His major question was whether other buildings on the street had the same fluctuation in value as his. He said his taxes have gone up from $800 a year to over $2,000 a year. The value of the building has gone from $20,000 when he purchased it to over $100,000, then back down again.

"Nobody can stay in business like that," he stated.

Horihan also explained that property taxes are not based solely on the value of the home. The amount is also affected by the levy the city asks for each year from the state. Horihan and Blagsvadt said they were willing to look into anyone's concerns or questions at any time.

Community Center and

Parking Lot

The Council had Craig Skott from Skott and Anderson Architects show the plans his company had drawn up for the remodeling needed at the Community Center. Skott explained that they would be replacing the walls in the exterior rooms and installing two windows, installing two heating and AC units, and replacing two exterior doors. The goal is to cut the boiler out and go with the electric units to heat and cool the rooms. He also mentioned the plan for the gym would be to have a furnace and AC unit on each side of the gym, which would use forced air to heat and cool the area. He recommended having one of the units gas powered instead of electric, as they may be exceeding their limit with electricity use. The hallways and restrooms would be heated with electrical fan coil units placed where existing vents are.

The council had concerns about using a gas powered unit and whether or not it is necessary. There would be no cost difference. Mayor Dave Kingsley said that Stuart Morem of Morem Electric had assured him there would be no problem with the electricity.

The council decided to have a meeting with Kingsley, City Administrator Jerome Illg, city maintenance employees, Stuart Morem and council member Robert Smith to look over the plans and make some final decisions.

The council approved sending the plans and specifications to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) for the loan process, contingent on the building committee's recommendations. According to Illg, it will take the USDA 3-4 weeks to review them. There will then be a three week bidding process. Skott estimated the entire project would then take about 100 days.

A decision was made to have Bonestroo do the designing for the parking lot project based on their feasibility report. The Bonestroo proposal estimated the total cost to be around $115,300. The cost for designing will be $19,000.

Mayor Kingsley said he would like the council to be more open to using money from the electric fund for both of these projects, instead of borrowing all of it from the USDA. Council member Sherry Hines pointed out that the city could make payments on the loan out of the electric fund, so as not to take so much of it out at one time. The council will discuss financing for both projects at a later date.

Trophy Case

Jim Love, speaking for the Harmony Alumni Association, requested a place in the Community Center for building a trophy case. Love recently acquired several trophies from Harmony High School sports going back as far as the 1920s, and would like for them to be displayed there. He asked for a bank of lockers to be removed to make room for the case. He is currently looking at trophy cases and raising funds, with the help of fellow alumni Amy Hahn, to have the case made. He also asked for a place to store the trophies in the meantime to keep them safe from damage. The council approved the requests.

Smith asked Love who would be taking care of the cleaning of the trophies. Love said they could hire someone to clean them once a year if needed. He added that the case would be locked.

"We would just really like to see them displayed," he said.

The Fourth of July

Ralph Beastrom of the Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce updated the council on some of the things that will be going on in town during the Fourth of July festivities. According to Beastrom, it will be a four day event, starting on Thursday night with the Miss Harmony Pageant and ending Sunday morning with a pancake breakfast. The beer garden will be up and running from Thursday night through Saturday night, and there will be music every night. Friday the fourth there will be the parade and fireworks, along with music and other activities. They are looking at having some new activities as well, such as a tractor show, flea market and more food vendors. The council agreed to let the Chamber use some empty lots for some of the activities.

Other Business

The council approved the purchase of a wireless system from Whitewater Wireless, Inc. that would allow weather spotters to set off the warning sirens from anywhere, and not have to go all the way to the fire hall in the event of a storm. The total cost for the wireless system is $9,377.82. Illg pointed out that they would be saving money by not having to pay cell phone charges.

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