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County approves tax abatements for flood damage properties

Fri, Oct 12th, 2007
Posted in Government

PRESTON - Assessor Robert Pickett presented the board with a very long list of properties in Fillmore County that should qualify for a tax abatement for the second half of 2007 at their October 9 meeting. These properties will have to have at least a 50% loss to qualify. The list of parcels included homestead (198), non-homestead (24), commercial (64), and mobile home (32) properties. Pickett asked for and received approval for the abatements.

Pickett said that letters have been mailed to the parcel owners. These property owners will not have to apply for the 2007 abatement, but will have to apply to receive any abatement in 2008. Commissioner Randy Dahl asked if some properties not listed could potentially qualify with another inspection. Pickett responded that if people have questions, they can call the office and the property may be reassessed.

The four counties in the state with the most damage are Fillmore, Houston, Winona, and Cook. Cook County sustained damage to property through fires earlier this year.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked Pickett how the county's budget will be affected in the coming year. Pickett assured him that shortfalls due to a reduced tax base because of flood damage should be covered by the state's reimbursement to the county for the abatements. Bakke suggested, therefore, that the county's reduction of tax capacity in the flooded areas should not impact other property owners within the county to any great degree.

Auditor/Treasurer Shirl Boelter asked the board to delegate authority to her to abate the penalty for late payment of second half property taxes in 2007 for homeowners who were effected by the flood. This, for example, could include a property owner who did not have property damage, but may have been put out of a job by the flood. However, if the second half of the 2007 property taxes are not paid by December 31, then all penalties will apply. County Attorney Brett Corson noted that the language was broad and that Boelter has the authority to say no to a property owner that she doesn't believe has a hardship due to the flood. The board approved the request.

Boelter requested and received approval from the board for an extension of the due date for second half property taxes for businesses affected by the August flooding. The extension does not apply to special assessments on the property. A qualifying business owner must pay all the second half taxes due by December 31 or all penalties accrued after October 15 will apply. The extensions in the due date apply to properties with under a 50% loss.

Kevin Kelleher, Department of Employment and Development (DEED), updated the board on the coordination of different government agencies and their work in dealing with the flood. He said that a disaster task force meets each Wednesday. He added that the community application for Fillmore County has been submitted. Subcommittees have been established to deal with individual categories including businesses, farms, and more. He warned that there may or may not be enough money to go around.

Kelleher said that loss of business over time is not covered by any government program. He was pleased with the speed at which government has responded. He added that even though the largest percent of forgiven loans and grants are being offered compared to past disasters, some people will still be devastated.

Bakke questioned Kelleher on the different interpretations of what the legislature passed. Kelleher responded that the legislators had a variety of intents for their vote which lead to various interpretations. He said that there is a tension between immediate and future needs. Bakke insisted that politicians need to make realistic statements to reflect what is really available and to be honest about what is really achievable.

Other Business

The board approved an employment contract with Kelly Wagner to serve as Acting Fillmore County Attorney in the absence of Brett Corson during his military deployment starting November 13. Wagner is currently employed by the county as a full time assistant county attorney. Wagner will continue to be classified as a county employee and will receive additional compensation of $1384 per month to compensate her for additional work and responsibility. Bakke added that she will assume all duties, obligations and privileges of the county attorney. This is a temporary position for Wagner during Corson's absence. The county is still working on hiring a part time assistant attorney. The two candidates so far are recent law graduates. Bakke preferred to find someone with experience. He expected a recent graduate would need a lot of training and the county would not benefit from that training since it is to be a temporary (about one year) position. Wagner suggested that the market the county will be drawing from for this part time position will include mostly recent graduates.

• A property tax forfeiture sale will be held in the courthouse lobby on November 13 at 2:00 p.m., Shirl Boelter listed three parcels one each in Spring Valley, Preston, and Wykoff that are to be sold.

• Zoning Administrator Norman Craig asked for and received approval of a resolution to renew a Conditional Use Permit for Ed Bunne, Bunne Sand Pit, in Beaver Township. Craig noted that the Planning Commission had recommended approval.

• County Engineer John Grindeland asked for and received approval to accept the low bid on three projects that were bid together in Pilot Mound Township, Canton Township, and Canton Township. The low bid for all three projects was offered by Midwest Contracting out of Marshall, Minn., in the amount of $999,660.64. Grindeland explained that packaging the projects together requires less paperwork for the federal government to accept federal funds. This saves time and money.

Grindeland asked for and received approval to accept the low bid from Rochester Sand and Gravel of $98,276.60 for one and one-quarter miles of County Road 21 to Eagle Bluff. He noted that the township's portion of that project was bid at $51,873.90.

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