Now that the tax bills are out the county’s tax office has been fielding a lot of calls from farmers and owners of ag land around the region.
Tax Director Jerry Ratzlaff says most of the calls he’s getting are from out of state landowners who wonder why the valuations went up so far in one year.
“It’s a matter of educating the taxpayers about the details involved in land valuation and explaining the soils survey that was done,” he explained.
“And it’s going up again this year, too, so no doubt the calls will keep coming in.”
Commissioner Bill Mertens reminded the commission that the mills had gone down this year, but according to Ratzlaff, that was hardly noticed when land valuations raised taxes much higher around the county.
County Agent Bill Hodous is enthusiastic about the Round Up coming next week and gave each commissioner a hand-out with the schedule as he pointed out the two main presenters for this year’s event.
He also reported that the Shooting Sports is full and that there is a waiting list for youth who want to be involved but they are in need of adult volunteers to help with the program.
Commissioner Ed Brown complemented Hodous on the Round Up and his work with that event through the years, telling him he has done a good job and that the Round Up is a signature event for Ramsey County.
A conflict arose briefly among the commissioners when it came time for appointments to the Ramsey County Water Board.
Commissioner Myrna Heisler had questioned the fairness of advertising the board position openings on the Friday and Monday before a Tuesday meeting, saying it didn’t give interested applicants time to respond when there was an opening. That was at the Commission meeting held on Dec. 18.
Although two individuals had applied for the two vacant positions on the board by that meeting, Heisler thought more time should have been given to allow others to come forward if they wanted to. Therefore the commission voted to table the decision until the Tuesday, Jan. 2 meeting.
The conflict arose Wednesday when Mertens voiced concern about a potential violation of commission policy and even questioned the ethics of waiting until the January meeting to decide when there had been two people interested in the two open positions in December.
That heated up the discussion for a few minutes as the commissioners clarified what happened, their motivation and intentions. Then it was time to act on the question.
The board voted in favor of Paul Becker remaining in his position on the board and there were two to consider for the other vacancy: Dave Freidig and Jon Brown.
Page 2 of 3 - Mertens’ motion in favor of volunteer Freidig filling the position failed for lack of a second.
Heisler made a motion in favor of Brown’s appointment and it was seconded by Commissioner Ed Brown and voted on, two in favor (Brown and Heisler) and two opposed (Mertens and Olson) with Commission Chair Scott Diseth breaking the tie with an “Aye” vote.
The seat on the Water Commission went to Jon Brown, but Elizabeth Fischer suggested the commission have the States Attorney look into the Century Code to make sure the vote was legal because Ramsey County Commissioner Ed Brown is Jon Brown’s father.
“We want to make sure no one can accuse us of doing something illegal, here,” Lonnie Olson said. He left to research the question and said he would be back within 45 minutes with his answer.
Meanwhile the meeting progressed discussing the county’s highway projects and related information provided by Roads Superintendent Kevin Fieldsend.
The commission voted to leave the 2012 budget in the red for the items of black topping and FEMA reimbursements. Whenever that money comes in, then those items will be taken care of, but there is a lag in reimbursements, so they have to just leave it on the books as it is until that money is received. Mertens complimented and thanked Fischer for coming in and working on the budget over the holidays so the figures would be ready for this meeting.
Bids were opened for new motor graders for the county from Butler and RDO. After some discussion the decision was tabled until Kevin could look over the two bids and determine which would best benefit the county. Both bids were accepted and at the next meeting they will make a decision which one they will go with.
The conversation continued about the dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 2 near Vining Oil and Fischer said she sent the letters to the DOT and the Governor’s office regarding the county’s concerns. They also brought up a grant that the state might apply for that could help with the costs of blinking warning lights at that intersection from the Safe Alternatives to School federal program.
During the discussion it was said that turning lanes also are needed along that stretch of road, too, but that property owners had been told that if they wanted them, they had to build them, themselves. The commissioners questioned that information considering it is a busy, major state highway. They decided to look into it and determine what could be done to encourage the state to add turning lanes for the subdivisions like Ackerman Acres being built up along that stretch of highway.
Page 3 of 3 - Rhonda Allery was informed that her office could legally sell the furniture they no longer need to another county’s Social Services Office.
The States Attorney returned and read a ruling from the Attorney General regarding nepotism that resulted in the vote for Jon Brown standing as it was completed, Olson determined there was nothing illegal about it.