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County proposes business property tax abatement

A tax abatement policy to lure new business to Hubbard County should be a tool handy in the county's arsenal, board members agreed Wednesday.

Under a proposed policy, the county, township, city or school district could abate all or a portion of a property owner's taxes or reallocate them to pay for infrastructure to spur development.

"We want it there in case an opportunity" arises, commissioner Kathy Grell said.

But any new business must meet certain criteria, she was quick to point out.

Primarily, the business must not be in competition with any existing business, Grell said.

It is not the county's intention to give a competitive edge to any business.

Commissioner Lyle Robinson said economic development carries unseen expenses that political subdivisions should keep in mind.

For instance, encouraging a developer to build a high rise would then force a fire department to purchase a high ladder truck in case of emergency, he said.

"Sometimes you have to be awfully careful what you wish for," he cautioned.

But Hubbard County's low tax rate, compared to surrounding counties, could be the biggest draw, commissioners agreed.

"Because we're frugal," Robinson said.

"We have an area people want to live in," Grell added. The board will review other tax abatement policies before recommending a course of action.

In other business, the commission:

n Approved a final payment of $29,697.42 for magnesium chloride to spread on the county's gravel roads. The county switched from calcium chloride to the cheaper magnesium this past summer.

County engineer Dave Olsonawski said the switch saved taxpayers money and the magnesium performed at or slightly below the calcium in stabilizing gravel roads, cutting down summer maintenance.

n Learned income maintenance caseloads have continued to decline slightly, but intakes, requests for assistance, are up sharply.

Hubbard County Social Services Director Daryl Bessler said he hopes some residents will be able to find holiday employment, albeit temporary, to cushion the usual high demand of winter.

But one positive element is beginning to show. The county has hired additional caseworkers and individual caseloads are approaching a more manageable level. A year ago, the county's 10 financial workers shouldered 240 cases apiece.

In 2011, the 11 caseworkers have an average of 221 cases with 200 being the ideal amount, Bessler said.

n Heard about installation of Global Connect, the mass notification system that is being installed in the dispatch area.

Sheriff Cory Aukes said it will be set up to notify isolated neighborhoods for incidents such as a broken water pipe, or an incident that doesn't affect the entire county.

The cost of the system is $8,590 for a year.

n Approved the DNR's acquisition of a 67-acre parcel of land adjacent to Spider Lake for an Aquatic Management Area.

DNR Fisheries supervisor Doug Kingsley said the property taxes should actually increase through PILT funds. Payment in Lieu of Taxes are state funds used to compensate counties when properties are removed from tax rolls.

The Doug Skoe property is currently valued at $588,000. Its 2010 taxes were $3,330.

Kingsley said PILT monies would reimburse the county $4,349. The Spider Lake Association and other residents supported the plan.

Kingsley said the property would be re-evaluated by the DNR. Legacy funds will be tapped for the purchase.

"It looks like a good deal to me," said board chair Greg Larson.

The parcel is near another tract of land Citizens State Bank recently sold to the DNR.

n Learned the Veterans Service Office is expecting an influx of service members needing assistance once the U.S. pulls out of Iraq by yearend.

Veterans Service Officer Greg Remus said while WWII vets' needs have declined due to death and assistance from other agencies, "there are going to be a lot of people coming back" that will need benefits.

n Renewed numerous liquor establishments' annual licenses and one without the signature of the sheriff. Hubbard County is trying to get ahead of the renewal uncertainty caused by the July shutdown, which has resulted in a state paper backlog.

Commissioners didn't want area liquor licenses to expire at midnight on New Year's Eve.

An employee at Foxy's Bar and Grill in Arago Township was caught and prosecuted in an underage sting operation serving a minor.

Aukes said he was unable to sign the renewal form because he would have had to attest the establishment had not incurred any violations in the past five years. He could not do that. The board renewed the license without his signature.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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