Document scam hits Houston County
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 2:50 AM
On Oct. 16, county recorder Bev Bauer told Houston County commissioners about a new scam circulating in the area, which could prove costly for homeowners.
Holding a letter, Bauer said that scammers are now offering to send copies of documents such as deeds to property owners.
With a Washington, D.C., address, one company (which Bauer said called itself "Secure Documents") offered "a copy of your deed for $83," she said.
"You can come to the courthouse and get a copy of your documents for $2 per page. These companies cannot certify the documents because they're not the government holder of the documents. All they're going to give you is a plain copy of your deed.
"I just wanted you to know in case any taxpayers contact you. It is a scam. I'm sure it stems from having our records on Land Shark (a software company with online access). We have east-coast companies and west-coast companies that have unlimited documents (service).
"This is a Houston County resident that got this in the mail. It's got a deadline on it. She thought she actually had to pay $83. It sounds like something she had to do."
A typical deed copy (not a certified copy) would cost a customer $4 to $6 at the Recorders' Office.
Scammers offering "property profiles" sound legitimate, Bauer said, because they now have access to actual documents online.
"If people come to you about these offers, I would highly recommend that they don't do it," she concluded.
Meth trailer to be removed
Public Health nursing director Deb Rock and Environmental Services director Rick Frank told the board that the disposal of a Caledonia meth trailer is finally about to get underway.
"Houston County has an ordinance known as the 'Cleanup of Clandestine Drug Lab Sites,' and Public Health has the authority to administer that," Rock said. "Rick has been coordinating the partnerships with the people we need to get this done.
"We will be taking the trailer off the site to a staging area for asbestos abatement, and then preparing it for the (La Crosse County) landfill."
Rock said that the trailer is scheduled to move to the staging area by the end of the week. Asbestos removal should take place the week of Oct. 22.
"When that's done a person (hauler) from Houston will take it to La Crosse," she reported.
The asbestos inspection cost the county $1,365, Rock said. Hauling preparations and moving fees will cost another $1,200. Asbestos abatement is $4,800. La Crosse County will charge another $900 to $1,100 to dispose of the trailer and contents. When certified letters are added in, the total comes to $8,300-$8,500, she stated.
The city of Caledonia bore the cost of the initial seizure and the hazmat response ($2,578). In addition, 11 county departments have spent numerous man-hours on the case, Rock said.
Commissioner Tom Bjerke said the commissioner's contingency fund may have to pay the county's share. No grants or other aid to help with the cleanup have been located as of yet, Rock said.
EAW timeline being outlined
Frank reported that he was working on a timeline for the Erickson Mine environmental assessment worksheet (EAW), which will explain the county's role as the responsible governmental unit.
"There is a significant portion of that (EAW) that needs to be done by the property owners," Chairman Jack Miller said. "They have to present what it is that they're doing."
Miller did not elaborate on how many of those questions have already been answered in the draft copy of the document, which so far has only been prepared by the applicant.
More closed sessions held
Two closed sessions were called during Tuesday's agenda. The first was requested by county attorney Jamie Hammell to once again discuss "threatened litigation" under attorney-client privilege.
Hammell said that no lawsuit has yet been filed, nor has the party agreed to a settlement.
The second was requested by personnel director Tess Kruger to discuss MAPE (Minnesota Association of Professional Employees) labor negotiations.
Jail numbers discussed
Kruger told the board that county employee Sandra Feuerhelm will soon retire, leaving a .5 FTE opening for a jailer/dispatcher.
"She's been with us 25 years, mostly as a part-time employee," jail administrator Mark Schlitz said. "It kind of shocked me since she's young, but she said she wants to enjoy her family, enjoy life. She's a very good employee, very dedicated, over and above the call of duty."
Commissioners asked Schiltz how many inmates the jail now houses, and they were told the population varies from 12 to 17.
When asked if staffing levels could be reduced, Schiltz stated that the jail/dispatch center requires 24/7 coverage, so cuts aren't necessarily an option.
Kruger offered to make a full analysis of staffing and contact the Minnesota Department of Corrections before asking for more hiring, but asked that interviews be allowed prior to a staffing recommendation.
By consensus, commissioners approved contacting a list of applicants from a July 2012 employee search for the same position.