By Craig Moorhead

Spring Grove Herald



A Spring Grove facility is still under consideration as the potential new headquarters of the Houston County Highway Department.

On Oct. 15, county commissioners reviewed an appraisal that they ordered for the property back in August. Bi-State Realty & Appraisals of West Salem estimated the value of the Roverud Construction facility located at 601 East Main, which includes office and shop space totaling 9,856 square feet, plus a 5,600-foot pole shed on 11.92 acres. Six acres of the lot were classified as "excess/surplus land" by the appraiser, but included in the total.

The "sales comparison" estimate came in at $468,000, while the "income" approach totaled $461,000. The appraiser did not submit figures based on cost approach, but offered a "final value conclusion" of $465,000.

Houston County Assessor Thomas Dybing was asked for his opinion on the document. "I had a few concerns with it," he said. "For one thing, on a commercial property, I would like to see the cost approach.... It allows you to look at what it would cost you to build a property like that."

In addition, the comparable sales were from areas not especially near to Spring Grove, Dybing said. Those included Bemidji, Miltona, and Spicer Minn., and Osseo, Wis. "I was a little concerned that there wasn't some comparables in Rochester or Winona, and they didn't appear to have the same function as the subject property," he added.

"The value could be right on, but I just had a little concern about those two points in the appraisal. But sometimes it's tough to find comparables in Houston County, or even in southeastern Minnesota.

"I think the cost approach is important, especially in our case where we're looking at replacing what we have with either new construction or re-purposing an existing (facility)," Commissioner Steve Schuldt noted.

By consensus, commissioners decided to request a cost approach figure from the appraiser.

Tax court ruling could affect county

Dybing also reported that Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. has filed an appeal in state tax court over 2013 Utility Property Tax Valuations. "All utilities and railroads are done (appraised) by the state," he said. "The Minnesota Department of Revenue will review the case... When you have these properties that are worth millions of dollars, it goes straight to tax court... Just a 10 percent reduction in valuation is a huge number statewide.

Dybing said the implication for the county's tax base is significant. The City of La Crescent alone has $2 million in utility property on the tax rolls, resulting in revenues of $115,000 annually, he stated.

The action is being taken against the Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue, not against the county or taxing district where the property is located. The State Attorney General's Office will defend the case.

Personnel

With four .5 FTE jailer/dispatchers currently working at the Justice Center, commissioners approved a request from Personnel Director Tess Kruger to initiate an internal search for a full-time jailor to replace Gary Bubbers when he retires at the end of the year. Conditional upon moving one of the four half-time employees to full-time, she was given permission to advertise a part-time position.

Kruger also was directed to advertise for a new director of public health, since Deb Rock's resignation (effective Nov. 1) was accepted last week.

A third vote extended the phased retirement of Public Health Nurse Mary Thompson, who will continue working at .6 FTE. The board then took Kruger's advice and appointed Thompson as Interim Public Health Director while the search for Rock's replacement is in progress, effective Nov. 2.

Other news:

County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought four more FEMA road repair contracts for final payment, all of which dealt with 2013 flood damages. Commissioners voted to accept all the work, which was done by Generation X Construction of Rushford. County State Aid Highways (CSAH) 5, 8, 15, and 17 were included, with final costs of $38,726, $50,558, $12,357, and $12,785 respectively. Pogodzinski said he would bring contracts for CSAH 32 and County Road 249 at a later date.