By Anna Jauhola
During Kittson County’s annual board of appeals and equalization meeting on Tuesday, June 18, the county commission – acting as the board of appeals and equalization – heard the state recommended a mandatory increase for residential land in Karlstad.
Deputy Assessor Lynette Snare presented the county’s equalization information, noting foremost the state insists the estimated market value of all residential land in Karlstad will rise 10 percent.
“I don’t like that at all,” said Commissioner Corey Wikstrom, whose district includes Karlstad.
Snare emphasized that the increase only affects residential land, not any structures or houses on the land within city limits. She said the change relates to state ratios and market sales.
“Our district representatives said they were happy with just doing residential land to get it where they want it at,” Snare said.
On a similar note, the assessor’s office will also be keeping an eye on agricultural land values in Richardville Township for 2020, as the state flagged the ratios as an issue.
Values per tillable acre in Kittson County stayed mostly the same throughout, with minor changes in Hazelton and Jupiter townships.
“It’s based on recent qualified sales,” Snare said. “The ratios were either too high or too low, so we had to make adjustments.”
Values in Hazelton Township increased by 5 percent, making the average value per tillable acre $1,266. In Jupiter Township, the values decreased by 5 percent, making the average value per tillable acre $1,844.
No one brought any appeals before the board, and so the board accepted the 2018 assessments for the county and the assessments for unorganized townships.
The board adjourned and resumed the meeting as the board of county commissioners.
In other business, the board:
• Approved resolution for Deputy Registrar Shirley Swenson to sign for grant funds received from the state of Minnesota as compensation for the fiasco that was the setup and usage of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS). Although Kittson County’s licensing office did not incur overtime or comp time throughout the last two years, the state has allocated $13 million to be distributed equally. Kittson County will receive just over $20,000. The board also approved Swenson to sign a liability release, which states the county won’t turn around and sue the state regarding any issues over MNLARS. The money will likely go into the general fund.
• Appointed Tim Swenson as interim temporary assessor effective July 1 after Assessor Marian Paulson’s retirement takes effect. That opens a 90-day window to hire a permanent assessor. The board also approved a temporary pay raise for Swenson from $22.70 per hour to $30.12 per hour, citing he will likely deal with more stress, possible extra hours and reduced staff. When a new assessor is hired, his pay will revert to $22.70 per hour. The county has already posted the position.
• Approved an agreement and resolution for a Local Road Improvement Grant (LRIP) for the County Road 10 pavement project by the Hallock Elevator site south of town. The grant is $400,000, and the remainder of the project will be paid for out of State Aid Construction funds.
• Approved awarding the LRIP project to Knife River Materials for $516,923.89, which is $102,813.89 more than the engineer’s estimate for the project. This is due to higher bituminous and classified gravel base prices.
• Approved hiring Jason Weleski as the new Kittson County Highway Department shop mechanic in the Hallock location, who will replace Kevin Johnson. Weleski will officially start on July 8 and will be paid $22.27 per hour.
• Approved increasing interim shop mechanic Dana Olson’s pay retroactively from May 28 through July 5 by $3.21 per hour. Starting July 8, his pay will go back to normal.
• Approved increasing Maintenance Foreman Shawn Anderson’s pay by $1.36 per hour to $30.62 per hour.
• Approved County Engineer Kelly Bengtson to sign an agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for 3,000 cubic yards of sand from the sand piles along the railroad tracks. The cost will be $1 per cubic yard. “They really want to move this stuff,” he said. The highway department will use the sand to put on dirt roads in Hampden Township.
• Signed a resolution supporting a federal BUILD Grant application by the highway department to help fund the paving of County Roads 10 and 13.
By Anna Jauhola