By Curt Nettinga
Approximately ten Fall River County property owners, who had their valuations lowered due to a computer error, had those mistakes reversed by the Fall River County Commission at the commission’s Dec. 4 meeting.
In most cases, the parcels in question had building values accidently removed from the property’s valuation, due at least in part to a change in computer software. In one case, a building was mistakenly added to an adjacent property.
County Director of Equalization Susie Hayes said that the property owners had all been sent letters advising that the commission was going to act on the measure. Commissioner Joe Falkenburg said that one of the people on the list had contacted him and protested that a building being valued at $660 was really worthless.
On a roll-call vote following a scheduled hearing, the commission voted unanimously to return the omitted valuations.
Hayes also brought three tax abatements to the commission for approval; one for a person who have received a veteran’s exemption, another that had had been double billed to a property owner and a final property, which should have received a church exemption after being sold in 2013.
Several other properties with extenuating circumstances were also discussed, with a suggestion from Commissioner Mike Ortner that the county may be best served by utilizing a debt collection service for some of the properties in question.
An agenda item to discuss the appeal of the Contaminated Soil Farm was, for the most part, a non-starter. Falkenburg said that as long as the case is before the Supreme Court, the commission and the other interested parties are simply waiting for that decision to come down.
Courthouse building supervisor Lyle Jensen suggested that the commission consider having a silent auction for some surplused items. The commission agreed that having a one-day silent auction could be a better alternative than saving small items for a county surplus sale or junking marginal items.
County Treasurer Kelli Rhoe brought two requests for delinquent tax agreements, both of which the commission approved. Rhoe said that there approximately seven such agreements that are being paid upon, which she monitors on a monthly basis. She added that there are five other agreements where the person is not making those payments.
County Emergency Manager Frank Maynard requested permission to have the commission chair sign the new Pre-Disaster Mitigation Resolution, which was approved. Maynard also noted that in many disaster grant scenarios, the county is required to provide matching amounts –either in dollars or personnel time. He said that when such things as the PDM resolution is discussed in a public meeting, the names of those in attendance could be helpful for matching funds. It would mean a sign-up sheet for county commission meetings and the commission asked to have it brought back at a subsequent meeting for more discussion.
Register of Deeds Melody Engebretson appeared to discuss the use of public computers in her office. Engebretson said that there are entities doing land research – primarily for oil and gas exploration – who are using the two computers for extended periods of time.
“If anyone wants to come in and do a quick look-up,” Engebretson said, “there is no terminal for them to use.” She requested permission to be able to ask the researchers to stop what they are doing to allow others access. The commission suggested that Engebretson initiate a time limit for the computers – perhaps a half hour – then if no one was waiting, the user could continue.
Former county deputy – and sheriff candidate – A. Scott Davis discussed his proposal to establish a county constable service, utilizing an existing deputy, himself and two part-time officers to take some of the stress off the existing deputies.
The commission advised Davis to discuss the proposal with incoming sheriff Bob Evans. Evans, who was at the meeting, said he doubted whether certified officers could be found who are willing to work only part time. Davis said that he knew of several in the area.
In other action, the commission:
Set a Supplement and Contingency Transfers hearing for Dec. 18 and set the end-of-the-year meeting for 9 a.m. on Dec. 30.
Formally moved the first meeting in January to Jan. 6, due to the regular meeting falling on Jan. 1.
Agreed to surplus several items for possible silent auction, but withheld a large safe for possible reuse.
Approved a request by Weed and Pest Supervisor Nina Steinmetz to purchase a new mosquito fogger with existing grant funds, and agreed to surplus the old fogger and sell it to the City of Hermosa.
Agreed to allow Maynard to purchase and install running board on the new EM pickup, and to have a partial spray-on bed liner applied.
Approved, following a public hearing, on-sale liquor license renewals for four businesses, wine licenses for two businesses and a restaurant-liquor license in the county.
Approved the hiring of Wendy Bilbruck as a full-time employee in the Auditor’s office.