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County board rescinds sale to HRA

Hubbard County Commissioners evidently got an earful after agreeing to sell 11 tax-forfeited lots in Hocking's Acres to the Hubbard County Housing & Redevelopment Authority (HRA) for $1 each earlier this month.

HRA planned to develop 11 homes for low- to moderate-income families over a five-year period.

"Sparked a lot of conversation, to say the least," said Board Chair Vern Massie.

About half-a-dozen residents attended Tuesday's county board meeting to speak about the matter.

County Commissioner Char Christenson explained that she sits on the HRA Board as a non-voting member.

"I was the one that pretty much spearheaded this because the lots had been for sale since 2011," she said. The HRA Board is interested in pursuing projects where private development is not likely to occur. I'll admit I was in err, possibly, bringing forward the motion since the appraised value was so greatly decreased. I thank all of the public that gave input. That's how government is supposed to work. We're here to serve the people. And so, in light of this, I'd like to make a motion to rescind our motion to sell the lots to HRA and they would go back on the auction block."

According to County Attorney Jonathan Frieden, the lots can be auctioned off after a waiting period of six months.

"It was never our intent to be in competition with the public," Christenson said. "We welcome any development the public would like on these lots as a wonderful solution to this."

She noted that the delinquent special assessments — which range from $13,800 to $20,000 per lot — would be between the purchaser and the City of Park rapids. The county's appraised value for the lots range from $100 to $500.

County Commissioner Cal Johannsen pointed out that the low sale prices reflect the county's desire to sell the lots and get them back on the tax roll. They are not equal to the fair market value of the parcel or represent the basis for future taxes.

HRA has not yet paid for the lots nor were the deeds transferred, "so there technically has not been a sale," Christenson said, noting that, legally, the county can only sell lots for $1 to another government entity.

"I believe I erred in not giving the public a chance to buy them at a lower value," she said.

The motion to rescind the sale to HRA passed unanimously.

In related business, the county board did as follows:

• Learned that 5,790 cords of timber, valued at $238,114, were sold at the Oct. 9 county auction. "All of the tracts that we had on the auction sold," said County Land Commissioner Chip Lohmeier. "Prices for aspen were down roughly $5 to $5.50 per cord. I think the reason for that is the mills are basically full. They have subsequently reduced the amount they're paying to loggers and that trickles down hill and we get less at the auction."

• Learned that 11 of the county's 30 tax-forfeited parcels sold at an Oct. 13 sale, resulting in $124,600 in sales. "All of the parcels that sold went for the appraised value," Lohmeier said.

• Approved the purchase of a Ziegler Caterpillar material handler for the new transfer station at a cost of $343,640. They also approved the purchase of a 2017 Freightliner hook truck for $173,860 and Pup trailer for $26,500. The purchases are grant-funded, noted County Solid Waste Administrator Jed Nordin, so the county pays for 25 percent, the grant 75 percent.

• Asked Public Works Coordinator David Olsonawski to consider repairs on CSAH 1. Christenson said she has received numerous phone calls about the road's poor condition. Olsonawski said the main issue is with the city's sewer and water system, "which is very deep and very old. For them to come up with the dollars and cents to replace all of that within city limits is going to be very expensive." The project would need to be included in the City of Park Rapids' capital improvement plan between now and 2022.

• Approved a $24,985 payment to Tri-City Paving, Inc. of Little Falls for three county road projects.

• Approved a $33,697 payment to Envirotech Services, Inc. of Greeley, Colo. for a two-year chloride contract.

• Approved a cross-country ski trail grant-in-aid agreement between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Soaring Eagles Cross-Country Trails. The grant is $3,300, effective July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

• Approved a request from Nevis Trailblazers to establish and maintain a Zorbaz spur within the right-of-way of CSAH 7.

• Established the 2018 recreational cabin lease rate at $300 per year.