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County Board reverses decision

By Staff | Sep 20, 2020

Bruce Stensland was allowed to repurchase his property after a decision by the Faribault County Board of Commissioners at their last meeting.

The matter of the tax forfeited land previously owned by Bruce Stensland was at the top of the agenda when the Faribault County Commissioners met for their regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Stensland’s request to repurchase the land where he operated Bruce’s Auto Repair, located at the corner of Seventh and Rice streets, had been denied at a previous County Board meeting which was held on Aug. 18.

Commissioner Tom Loveall, who had voted in the 3-2 majority to deny the repurchase, made a motion to bring the matter back to the floor for discussion.

After that vote passed, Loveall was the first commissioner to speak.

“I was the one who swung the first vote. One of the concerns I had was that a process had been set up but there was no follow-through,” Loveall remarked. “I am glad to see Bruce is here today. I understand people and businesses run into financial difficulties.”

Stensland picked up the discussion.

“What I am basically asking for is a second chance to retain my business,” he said. “I am probably the only mechanic in the area who will still go out to someone’s place to check on a vehicle. I have many thank you cards from organizations I have supported and people I have helped.”

Loveall responded.

“I am certainly willing to bring this back up for a vote and I can do that since I was one of the persons who voted for the original motion to deny the repurchase,” Loveall commented. “I will make a motion to allow the property to be repurchased.”

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz seconded the motion.

“The property belongs to us, the state, and he has missed other payments,” commissioner John Roper offered. “I also question whether the time period for repurchasing has passed.”

The board asked for County Attorney Kathryn Karjala’s opinion on the matter.

“It is my opinion the county can allow the repurchase,” she stated. “The courts have shown a lot of leniency with timelines due to the coronavirus pandemic so I think it is permissable.”

The question was called and commissioners Loveall, Groskreutz, Young and board chair Tom Warmka voted in favor of allowing the repurchase of the land by Stensland with the stipulation he also pay a bill from Blue Earth Light and Water for $504.89. Commissioner Roper voted no and questioned whether the vote needed to be unanimous but for now the decision stands.

With a Sept. 30 deadline approaching, the commissioners took action to set the proposed 2021 tax levy. The commissioners placed the proposed total levy at $12,862,277 before state aid reductions. This represents a 3.8 percent levy increase over 2020. The total net levy after reduction of program aid is $12,152,746.

The motion passed 3-2, with Loveall and Warmka opposing the motion.

The board members said they felt they would be able to lower the proposed levy increase before final certification of the 2021 tax levy.

Planning and Zoning Commission member Dennis Koziolek attended the meeting virtually to talk about the junkyard ordinance.

“We are struggling with the ordinance and are having trouble with how we avoid penalizing farmers who might have old machinery they have kept around for parts,” Koziolek told the board.

Young also spoke on the matter.

“It is an ongoing process. We are really looking for some public input,” Young stated. “One of the issues we are dealing with is what is junk and what is not.”

Groskreutz mentioned some of the other problems the commission members were dealing with.

“Another concern involves whether the junk is in sight of the public,” Groskreutz noted. “There is also the concern of older vehicles leaking oil.”

Warmka also chimed in on the issue.

“My concern is that this is a free country. If people have 5-7 junk cars in their yard I may not like it and I don’t have to look at it. I don’t like graffiti either so I don’t look at it,” Warmka said. “The amount of disrespect we have in this country where peaceful demonstrations turn into the destruction of property upsets me.”

The board agreed that more public input is needed.

Mark Daly of the Public Works Department attended the meeting to update the board on road construction.

“County Road 23 is complete except for an 84-inch centerline culvert,” Daly said. “County Road 16 has a completion date of Oct. 30. We are set to begin work on the County Road 25 and 590th Avenue box culverts on Sept. 28. The work on the railroad crossing on County Road 13 near Marna is also complete.”

The board also:

Voted to approve the purchase of new software for the County Attorney’s office to assist with case management. The first year fee is $40,900 with annual support fees of $4,700. This is the same software Martin County recently voted to purchase and it will replace software which has proven to be unreliable and not easy to use, according to Karjala.

Granted the request of County Assessor Gertrude Paschke to attend the Minnesota Association of Assessing Officers Fall Conference which will be held virtually this year.

Passed a motion of no comment on the proposed modification of the city of Wells Municipal Development District No. 3 and Tax increment Financing District No. 3-2.