Supervisors say new assessment figures won’t impact levy, budget decisions

Friday, March 3, 2023

LE MARS — Final figures are in on the new assessed value of property in Plymouth County.

Auditor Stacey Feldman discussed the numbers with the Board of Supervisors at the start of their Tuesday, meeting. The assessment figures changed after the state government corrected an assessment error made in 2021.

That forced local governments to go back to work to figure out their budgets and to determine the taxable value of property within their boundaries. Under the figures being used before they were amended, taxable property in the county topped $2 billion.

Now, it is $1,998,029,545, Feldman told the supervisors. That meant under the proposed levy of $3.50 per $1,000 of valuation, the county would have brought in an additional $180,000 in tax dollars.

But Feldman noted that it is useless to consider such figures, since they were based on false assessments. It’s like trying to claim a Powerball ticket after a printing error, she said.

“No, you never had it,” Feldman said.

In other news from the meeting:

• Bids for four concrete culvert projects were awarded. Four companies — Richards Construction of Sac City, Nelson & Rock Contracting Inc. of Onawa, LA Carlson Contracting of Hinton and Midwest Contracting of Marshall, Minnesota, submitted bids on all four.

Richards was awarded contracts on culvert projects in Fredonia, Washington and Plymouth townships, with bids of $263,879, $233,841.50 and $239,956.70, respectively. All three were lower than the estimates.

Nelson & Rock won the bid for a culvert in Lincoln Township with a bid of $168,081.88, nearly matching the estimate of $168,567.20.

County Engineer Tom Rohe said 12 or 13 concrete culverts will be installed this year, replacing worn wooden bridges. In addition to the four that were under discussion on Tuesday, bids on two others to be installed on County Road C-70, one in Union Township, the other in Henry Township, will be opened at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 14.

County crews will install six or seven more culverts, Rohe said. Replacing wooden bridges with concrete culverts is a regular task each year, he said, and there are several that need replacement.

There are slightly more than 1,400 miles of roads in the county, Rohe said. While 365 miles of that is paved, more than 1,000 miles are gravel and there are still a lot of wooden bridges on them that the county wants to replace.

• The county board approved a pair of right of way agreements with rural property owners.

The county will pay John and Rebecca Vardaman $1,260 to purchase .07 acres of land adjacent to a culvert that will be installed this year. That’s based on a valuation of $18,000 per acre. In addition, the Vardamans will be paid $84 to lease .21 acres of land to store equipment. With an additional $14 abstract fee, the total payment is $1,358.

Robbie and Carrie Trometer will be paid $1,080 for .06 acres of land near the culvert, which will be installed this summer. That’s based on the same $18,000 per acre valuation. They also will receive $56 to lease .14 acres of land for equipment storage. Along with the $14 fee, it’s a total payment of $1,150.

These properties are located along Impala Avenue two miles south and two miles west of Merrill.

• The supervisors approved a three-year contract with H&H Aggregates of Spirit Lake for $254,800 a year to provide a minimum of 40,000 tons for county roads in 2023-25. That’s $6.37 per ton.

The bid was opened at the Feb. 14 meeting, and Supervisor Craig Anderson had asked if the company would be willing to extend the contract by a couple years. On Tuesday, Rohe said it would. The plan is for it to extract and pile up two years worth of gravel and, if the agreement is extended, another three years’ worth.

• The supervisors unanimously approved 14 property tax exemptions for properties with native prairie soil or with wetland impoundments. These are part of a state program to encourage conservation.

• An Iowa Department of Corrections staffer will use a small office in a county-owned building on Second Avenue. The lease with the state calls for a monthly payment of $43.20 for the 10-foot by 12-foot office.

A 3rd Judicial Circuit probation officer who has been using available spaces decided he needed a more-permanent location and agreed to lease the space. He will use it every Thursday, and a second probation officer may use the space as well.

• The supervisors received a letter from the city of Le Mars advising it of a proposed urban renewal plan amendment. The city was required to inform the county and the Le Mars School District, since they are the other two taxing entities within the urban renewal district boundaries.

A meeting between representatives of the three government entities is set for 1 p.m. Monday, March 6.

• Anderson said the continued efforts to dissolve the Western Iowa Workforce Development Chief Elected Official Consortium are “interesting.”

The group, made of representatives from Plymouth, Cherokee, Woodbury, Ida, Sac, Monona, Crawford, Carroll, Greene, Harrison, Shelby, Audubon, Guthrie, Pottawattamie, Cass, Mills, Fremont and Page counties, has voted to cease operations on June 30 and turn matters over to Iowa Workforce Development. County officials are unhappy with changes made to the organization and feel they have lost local control, Anderson has said during supervisors’ meetings and in interviews with The Le Mars Sentinel.

He said the state wants to hand over responsibilities for western Iowa to the central Iowa organization. Anderson said two more of the nine regional groups have voted to disband as well.

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