By Anna Jauhola
Kittson County will again be searching for an administrator after the commissioners accepted Brian Buhmann’s resignation on Tuesday, June 20.
Buhmann began as administrator in Kittson County on Sept. 13, 2021. He is the third administrator the county has had in the last three years.
“My resignation is contingent on the board in Cass County (Minn.) approving me as their new health, human and veteran services director – a meeting that is taking place tonight as well,” Buhmann said during the board’s evening meeting.
He added the decision was difficult, but reflects personal decisions more than anything. His wife and three children still live in Cass County. His wife has been a single parent caring for special needs children and this new position will allow him to no longer be an absentee parent, he said.
“It’s been my privilege to work with such a fantastic board who I believe is heading in the right direction with Kittson County,” Buhmann said. “You face the challenges the way you should. I’d like to thank you for the opportunities you guys have given me – for your friendship, professionalism and leadership. I will miss you guys.”
Commissioner Theresia Gillie made the motion, with regret, to accept Buhmann’s resignation.
Commission Chair Loren Younggren echoed Gillie, noting the board has appreciated Buhmann’s leadership as well and wished him well. His last official day at work is Wednesday, Aug. 2 and he will take some vacation days before starting his new position on Monday, Aug. 7.
Due to Buhmann’s resignation, the commission commenced a closed session to discuss labor negotiation strategy. They cited Minnesota State Statute 13D.03, an open meetings law, and closed the meeting at 5:37 p.m. After reopening the meeting at 5:55 p.m., Buhmann relayed the board discussed strategy for recruiting an interim county administrator. The board approved directing the personnel committee to contact possible candidates and begin that process.
In other business, the commission:
• Adjourned the regular commission meeting at 6 p.m. to convene the annual county board of appeals and equalization. Assessor Heather Bruley addressed the board, noting no one had signed up to attend for appeals. In their work throughout the year, the assessor’s office had only two clerical errors and one application for property tax abatement, resulting in a reduction of about $300. The commission approved new valued assessments for unorganized townships of Klondike, McKinley, North Red River and Peatland. Each township’s estimated market values increased. Overall, the taxable market value in the county increased from $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion due to the Line 3 Pipeline project. Bruley thanked her staff – Jennifer Koskela, Alyssa Gustafson and Danielle Weleski – for their hard work, noting the work done since last year would not have been possible without them.
• Approved the final sale of a tax forfeited house at 521 5th St. SE in Hallock to the highest bidder. Buhmann said they contacted the four highest bidders from the submitted bids to give oral bids at the Tuesday, June 13 auction. Two put in bids, but Jayden Swenson put in the highest at $131,000. The closing date is set for Wednesday, July 12. Included with this sale will be repayment of taxes to the Kittson Central School District and the city of Hallock. After those are paid, the county will net approximately $128,000 into the tax forfeiture fund. This will allow the county to continue demolishing dilapidated houses.
• Heard six of the seven tax forfeited properties around the county sold at the June 13 auction. The one that didn’t sell is along Highway 75 in Northcote and is now available over the counter at $300. The $3,300 collected from the tax forfeited property sale also goes into the tax forfeiture fund.
• Approved refunding the state of Minnesota an overpayment of $2.6 million. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payment came in earlier this month to Kittson County Social Services, but was meant for another county. Buhmann said the social services checking account is still healthy at about $3 million.
• Approved a resolution for a levy request from the regional Housing and Development Authority for taxes payable in 2024. That authority can approve up to 25 percent of 0.0185 percent of market value. Buhmann said this will be approximately $78,000 based on the 2023 taxable market values countywide, which is $1.7 billion.
• Approved a contract with David Drown and Associates to conduct a wage study for the county at a cost of $16,175. They have an option to add on $8,000 for ongoing maintenance of job descriptions. The wage study will help update job descriptions and streamline the county’s four salary schedules, ensuring competitive hiring and retention.
• Approved a contract with Northland Securities regarding bonding for capital improvements. When the county issues the bonds, 2.5 percent will go to Northland Securities, Buhmann said. Some capital improvement projects include preparing a capital improvement plan and upgrade water pipes, general updating of the HVAC system and demolition of the old boiler system in the courthouse, as well as upgrading two highway shops outside of Hallock and parking lot improvements. However, nothing is set in stone yet, Buhmann said.
• Approved the resignation of part-time custodian, Beau Bakken, effective Friday, June 23, and approved posting for the position.
• Approved an annual off-sale license and a cocktail room license for Far North Spirits, rural Hallock.
The next regular meeting is set for Tuesday, July 11 at 9 a.m. due to the July 4 holiday.