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County board tables decision on property dispute in Akeley

At the Hubbard County Board meeting held Tuesday morning, the City of Akeley had submitted a request to purchase a tax-forfeited parcel, identified as Lots 1-9 Block 44 Townsite of Akeley, in an effort to resolve property issues.

"This is an issue that we've been dealing with for a couple of years now. The adjoining landowner has an encroachment onto a platted city street and the purchase of this property by the city would allow them to shift the undeveloped road to the south and clear up the title issues with the adjoining landowner," Land Commissioner Mark "Chip" Lohmeier explained. "We would have to set an appraised value of the property and go through the process of selling to the city."

Lohmeier told the commissioners that the county could either have it appraised or the assessor could apply the assessed value, adding that they haven't yet come up with a market value of the property but the former owner of the property did have the land appraised and the value of the property was estimated at two different prices that would depend on whether or not the city would extend utilities to the lots.

"It sounded like the city was not interested in extending sewer and water into the lots, so the value would probably be much less," he said.

Commissioner Cal Johannsen asked whether or not the county had applied a value to it.

"I believe we had valued it at $18,400," Lohmeier responded.

"And that's something we can't deviate from?" Commissioner Dan Stacey asked.

"Not for the estimated market value for tax purposes. The board can come up with their own value for tax-forfeited lands. If it's a value from me then it's going to be the estimated market value unless we work toward a lesser amount," County Assessor Ginger Woodrum said, adding that her office is currently in the process of writing up a policy that states if the county comes up with a lesser value it would not be reflective of what the tax value would be.

Jim Rech, the current owner of the adjoining property, spoke to the board on the issue, stating that currently the drain field for his septic sits within the easement. The county selling the land to the city would not resolve the entire issue.

"If you were to sell the land to me, there would be no need at all for Third Street. It's strictly a dead end that would lead from one side of my property to the other," he said. "That would resolve the entire issue."

According to Rech, when he purchased the property from Mr. Tatro, he was told there was not a road there and that Tatro was also incorrect about the location of the property lines. Rech further explained that Tatro has offered to put forward the money for the city to purchase the lots and in turn vacate the road because Rech filed a lawsuit against Tatro to resolve the issue.

Rech explained that Third Street runs east and west to the south of his property and there is also an alleyway that runs north and south to the west of his property.

"It's a messy situation and I know it's not an easy fix," he said.

Lohmeier added that the county could not sell the land directly to Rech, rather it would have to go up for public sale to the highest bidder.

"We have three options: keep it, sell it to the city or put it up on public auction, correct? We have three options to consider," Commissioner Char Christenson said.

Lohmeier responded that if the county were to sell the land to the Rechs, Third Street would still need to be vacated in order to correct the problem, and the city owns the easement.

"If we sell it to the Rechs and the city vacates it then Third Street would go to the Rechs," he said. "If we sell it to the city, they could move their street as far south as they need to to clear up the property problem."

Akeley City Clerk/Treasurer Melody Boettcher told commissioners that the city does not want to vacate Third Street because there is private property within city limits to the west of Rech's property that could be developed in the future.

Boettcher added that the Rechs and the city went to court. The Rechs had filed a petition to have the street vacated and their petition was denied due to improper service. Rech explained that the road is overgrown with trees and has never been maintained. He also said that Tatro will only supply the funding for the purchase if the city vacates Third Street and the alleyway.

"My understanding of the proposal is that the city is attempting to buy this property so that they can vacate in the right places but maintain the easements that they need to extend the public services," County Attorney Jonathan Frieden explained. "If the board were to put it up for public auction a lot of that would not work. Ultimately as far as the county is concerned, it isn't a county problem it's a city and private property owner issue but the county could assist by selling it to the city."

Commissioner Stacey said, "This has been going on for a long period of time. The city needs to decide what they're going to do and put it in writing."

The consideration of the City of Akeley's request to purchase the parcel was tabled until Sept. 5 to allow the development of a recommended value by the Assessor and Land Commissioner.

In other business county commissioners did the following:

• Accepted the resignation of Public Works Coordinator David Olsonawski, effective Mar. 9, 2018 after 27 years of service.

• Approved an increase from $4,410 to $4,282 in matching funds allocation for Land of the Dancing Sky.

• Approved the re-filling of a vacant social service social worker by following proper procedure as well as any resulting vacancies.

• Approved the transfer of an easement across tax forfeited land in Lake Alice Township.

• Adopted a resolution reclassifying a parcel in Akeley as non-conservation.

• Approved the reappraisal of tax forfeited lands in preparation for the fall land sale to be held in October.

• Approved the final payment of $15,508.45 to Traffic Marking Service out of Maple Lake, Minn. for the 2017 pavement marking.

• Adopted a resolution approving the repurchase of a tax forfeited parcel in Farden Township.

• Approved the update to the Personnel Policy regarding employee identification badges.

• Approved the Public Works Coordinator job description as recommended by the Human Resources Director.

The next regular county board meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at the Hubbard County Government Center.