Dr. R. Ross Reichard, M.D. reviewed statistics related to 2020 Fillmore County medical examination services at the Fillmore County Board’s June 1 meeting.
The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office provides services for eight counties, including Fillmore. The number of deaths reported to the medical examiner in Fillmore County were 134. Sixty-eight percent of the deaths in Fillmore County in 2020 were reported to the examiner’s office.
No homicides were reported in 2020, but there were two suicides, 15 accidents, and 117 natural deaths. Most deaths by unnatural causes were caused by a jump/fall (nine) and two were caused by a motor vehicle accident. One suicide was by firearm and one was by hanging. One death was due to mixed drugs and no deaths were due to the use of illegal drugs.
Deaths by natural causes were cardiac related (39), cancer (32), neurological diseases (21), pulmonary (10) and a few by other causes including liver, kidney, or gastrointestinal illnesses. Death rates increase significantly with the 45-64 age range and continue to increase as people get more elderly.
Eva Barr, board president, and Mark Burmeister requested an appeal process to review their request for a tax abatement for taxes payable in 2021. The abatement request had been denied by county assessor Jason McCaslin. Wykoff Commons is a non-profit and as a non-profit their board feels strongly that the tax abatement is indicated. The Wykoff Commons board is a group of volunteers that are striving to revitalize the community. They have come up with a number of ideas for use of the former Kingsland school building. Part of the repurposing of the building is a community recreation center. It was used for distance learning for local students.
The facility was sold by Kingsland in 2018 to a private party; at that time, being privately owned, property taxes were imposed. Many repairs and maintenance costs are eating up their budget. Barr said they are sneaking by on a shoestring budget; their funds are precious.
McCaslin said what they are doing is fabulous for the city, but the abatement they are requesting would be for a period when the facility was in private hands. He suggested what they are looking for is an economic abatement, which provides an incentive to remodel, to rejuvenate an area in the city.
McCaslin said he didn’t have the authority to approve their application based on what was provided. To claim the exemption from property taxes as a public charity the application must be filed with the assessor on or before February 1 (2020) of the assessment year. He also noted there is a gray area, as part of the building is vacant and not being used for an exempt purpose. There are no grounds to approve an abatement for taxes payable in 2021.
Commissioner Duane Bakke said they should get the exemption they deserve in 2022, but rules would have to be changed to allow the exemption in 2021. They filed as a non-profit in August 2020. They didn’t hold the property when the February deadline came and went.
Chairman Randy Dahl said they are caught in the fine print of the law; it is great what you are doing, but I don’t see where we can do anything.
Other business in brief
• Three policies were approved after their second reading, including the ID Card policy, the Credit Card policy, and the Reimbursed Expenses policy.
• Annalisea Pendl was hired as summer office support in the Extension Office, effective June 7.
• Job descriptions for the finance director, property appraiser, and lead fiscal officer will be reviewed by the commissioners. At the next meeting a request to send them to David Drown & Associates for its review will be considered.
• A motion to advertise for a replacement feedlot officer/zoning technician/GIS was approved. In the interim, feedlot and septic inspections are contracted out.
• A Livestock Pass policy was approved. (Mitch Lentz voted no). There has not been a request for the installation of a new livestock pass for a couple of decades. The policy requires the land owner to request the construction of a livestock pass. The landowner will be responsible for 70% of the actual cost of installation including restoration of the road way surface, if the road is not being reconstructed. If a new livestock pass is being installed in conjunction with a county highway project, the landowner will be responsible for 30% of the actual cost of the new livestock pass. The policy language is similar to that of Winona County. Lentz, who is requesting a livestock pass, argued it should be part of the road project if it meets the county’s requirements (paid for 100% by the county). He said he would vote against the policy because it should include language that requires the landowner to be compliant with all agencies and to have all taxes paid.
• A resolution was approved extending the COVID Emergency Declaration through July 7. There is still a state order of emergency in place. With the Emergency Declaration in place the county is eligible for federal funding. The county will receive a total of $4,092,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act 2021. About half of those funds have been received.