Commissioners OK DNR land acquisition
By Fritz Busch
NEW ULM — By a 4-1 vote Tuesday after considerable discussion, Brown County commissioners approved a proposed 80-acre land acquisition in Section 36, Leavenworth Township, by the State of Minnesota.
Commissioner Dennis Potter cast the dissenting vote on the measure allowing land to be included in the Verona State Wildlife Management Area (WMA) for water, wildlife conservation, and public access. Commissioners unanimously tabled the proposal Sept. 18 in favor of more information, including PILT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) payments long-term and weed control.
WMA’s provide yearlong recreation for hunters, trappers, fishermen, birdwatchers, other nature lovers, and can be a valuable economic asset to local communities by encouraging tourism, according to an Aug. 31 letter to commissioners from Redwood Falls DNR manager Jeff Zajac.
In addition, the proposed PILT is $2,885.25, based on 3/4 of 1 percent of the land’s appraised value. Property taxes on the land for the 2019 tax year are assessed at $880.75. Commissioners learned that PILT tax payments on the land are $90 a year less than what they would be on homesteaded land.
The Cropland Equivalency Rating (CER) average for tillable land on the parcel is very low at 41.05 (as per the County GIS system). The parcel is primarily excessively drained sand, according to Zajac.
In a Sept. 25 letter to Brown County Commissioner Charles Enter, Zajak said he and DNR staff scout for weed problems while performing other duties at WMAs. “If I know about thistle and weed problems, I will have land mowed and sprayed,” Zajak said.
Potter said he learned a lot about the subject over the past couple weeks.
“I understand the legislature can balance its budget by adjusting PILT payments,” Potter said.
Mulligan Township farmer Alphonse Mathiowetz said the DNR wants to buy more land and take it off the tax rolls instead of taking care of the land they already have.
“I put 40 acres of cropland in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) three years ago. Now its got thistles and weeds,” Mathiowetz said. “Thistles will take over unless the state, county and township spray it.”
Mathiowetz said he was thankful that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) paid $38,000 of the last ditch program cost.
“I need the crop to pay my real estate tax,” Mathiowetz said.
• By a 4-1 vote with Potter dissenting, a GEI Consultants Inc. proposal to develop a Brown County Sanitary Landfill load pad design, permitting coordination, meeting costs, permit renewal, Nature and Extent investigation and report and submit it to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Total cost of the proposal is estimated at $16,200.
“It’s the frustration of the whole process. We’re spending money like there is no bottom,” Potter said.
Commissioner Scott Windschitl said the project can’t be bid out because another company would have to start the process from scratch.
“We’re being used as guinea pigs,” Potter said.
“We’re the first landfill in Minnesota to do this,” said Brown County Planning and Zoning Administrator Laine Sletta.
“We have to move on,” Windschitl said and made a motion to approve the proposal.
• Unanimously approved a resolution to accept and authorize GEI Consultants to provide preliminary development of the application to conduct a Demonstration Research Project (DRP) estimated to cost $24,900. A new, proposed landfill spray field can be used contingent upon completion of a DRP, which is used to evaluate the treat-ability of constituents in leachate that could lead to groundwater impacts if leachate is applied to the north spray field.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) (man-made chemicals not found naturally in the environment) and Boran have been detected in groundwater above their respective intervention limit (IL) in monitoring wells installed at the existing spray field. The DRP will be directed at the pre-treatment of leachate to control those constituents.
• By a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Potter and Dean Simonsen dissenting, approved a $6,097 low quote for two License Bureau Office workstations from Kemske’s A River Bend Business Products Company .
With implementation of Real ID on Oct. 1, expansion into Conference Room B is needed to accommodate the lengthy process to issue Real and Enhanced IDs at the office. The process requires review of sensitive documents and customer privacy. Additional space is needed to service the anticipated increase in licenses that will be issued.
Other quotes were $6,772 from New Ulm Furniture Co. and $8,604.21 from General Office Products.
Fritz Busch can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.