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Published March 10, 2010, 11:02 AM

Official: Ag land valuation measure could cost county

Director of Equalization Kathy Goetsch appeared Tuesday before the Davison County Commission and expressed concern about HB 1202 and its potential costs for the county.
The bill, before the state Legislature, addresses the state’s new method of assessing agricultural land based on production rather than market value. The original HB 1202 was “hoghoused,” or extensively rewritten and sent on to the Senate for further consideration.

By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic

Director of Equalization Kathy Goetsch appeared Tuesday before the Davison County Commission and expressed concern about HB 1202 and its potential costs for the county.

The bill, before the state L egislature, addresses the state’s new method of assessing agricultural land based on production rather than market value. The original HB 1202 was “hoghoused,” or extensively rewritten and sent on to the Senate for further consideration.

The latest version of the bill would let the state Department of Revenue assess ag land in the county and then pass along the cost for those services to the respective counties. The reassessment would be triggered by complaints.

Goetsch said that while changes to Davison County ag valuations have not been excessive under the new system, there have been multiple complaints about large shifts from other counties.

To prevent large jumps in value the Legislature, when it enacted the new tax system, limited valuation increases or decreases to 10 percent a year until 2017. A 10 percent valuation increase does not mean an equal increase in taxes. By law, property taxes cannot increase more than 3 percent a year.

But Goetsch said a string of increases could still be considered a heavy burden for some property owners.

“We didn’t see any major valuation increases,” said Goetsch, “so we don’t anticipate any large tax increases.”

Goetsch said she will continue to monitor the bill as it progresses in the Senate to determine its effects on Davison County.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners heard from Ethan residents who asked them to prohibit parking in front of Cook’s Inn at the intersection of Main Street and County Road 18 (Second Street). Cars parked too close to the corner at the intersection are blocking sight lines.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to erect “No Parking” signs at the corner and to keep cars about 40 feet from the intersection.

Ethan City Chairwoman Nancy Schoenfelder also asked the commissioners to consider placing an additional stop sign at County Road 18 (Second Street). The intersection is currently a three-way stop.

“Trucks coming from the south do not stop,” she said.

There is concern about the safety of children a nearby elementary school.

Commissioner Gerald Weiss favored a sign. “Our number one priority is the safety of our kids,” he said.

Commissioner Jerry Fischer said he wanted more input from the parties involved before making a final decision on adding a sign. He also asked that a full commission board be present before making a decision on adding a sign.

Commission Chairman Dave Weitala was out of town Tuesday on family business. John Claggett presided.

The commissioners also:

• Approved the retirement from full-time service, effective April 16, of Deputy Mark Vaughan.

Sheriff Dave Miles said Vaughan will move to parttime duty at the courthouse and his pay will drop from $16.47 to $12 an hour. Miles said circuit judges have asked that a deputy be present during all court proceedings. Vaughan will also fill in on weekends as needed.

Civil Deputy Tim Reitzel will move into the full-time deputy slot on April 16, said Miles, at a rate of $14.90 an hour.

The commissioners will address the anticipated open civil deputy position at a future meeting. Miles said he would like to advertise the position internally, as per county policy.

Commissioners struggled with setting wage levels for the position.

Auditor Susan Kiepke said the county needs a wage study to develop a consistent and fair system of compensation.

• Approved a $5,750 contract for engineering services with Roby Quintal & Everson of Mitchell to supervise the demolition of the Tower Building on Miller Avenue. County Maintenance Superintendent said the company will review bid specifications for the demolition project. Ruml said the company will supervise the closing of several tunnels at the site and make certain they are closed off and capped correctly.

RQ&E will also provide engineering input on the separation of the old hospital building from structures that will remain. The contract does not include testing for soil compaction or other restored surfaces; monitoring of the disposal site, or on-site safety monitoring —those will be the responsibility of the chosen contractor.

The commissioners also gave Ruml approval to hire part-time janitorial worker Cindy Oppelt at $8 per hour for up to 20 hours a week.

• Gave Community Health Nursing offices permission to provide part-time clerical help to the Aurora County nurses offices during April and May to replace a worker on leave. Connie Fergen said that hours for the replacement worker will be billed to Aurora County.

The commissioners also:

• Approved seasonal overweight travel permits for Miedema Sanitation. The company’s sanitation trucks must follow prescribed routes already on file with the Highway Department. Miedema told the commissioners that there will be no anticipated changes to those routes. A similar permit was granted to Tim Harrington of Central Electric for the use of company trucks.

Harrington thanked Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg and his road crews for their help clearing roads during the Christmas blizzard.

• Heard from Welfare Director Steve McClure, who said that one indigent patient has run up bills of $213,000 for three surgeries and related costs. The most recent bill was for $135,000, and the county is responsible for about $39,000 of that amount. That lower figure represents the Medicaid reimbursement rate.

• Gave Carol Gibbs, who represented the American Legion Auxiliary, permission to use the county building at the fairgrounds for her organization’s Easter Candy Scramble at 3 p.m. on April 4. Commissioners waived rental fees for the community event.

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