Nobles County commissioners approve land sale
WORTHINGTON — Outdoors enthusiasts will have another 75 acres of public hunting ground and conservation acres after Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday approved sale of a Bloom Township parcel to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The land, which contains both native prairie and crop land, is located in the southwest quarter of Section 34, along Jack Creek east of Wilmont. The DNR will make a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) of nearly $3,500 for its ownership of the land, which is more than $1,000 over the amount of taxes the land generated in private ownership.
The DNR’s Bill Schuna explained to commissioners that PILT payments to Nobles County were nearly $154,000 in 2013. The payment in lieu of taxes is figured at a rate of three-quarters of 1 percent of the assessed value of the land.
“Nobles County Pheasants Forever is very aware of the board’s concern when it comes to agricultural land,” said chapter president Scott Rall. He said that while the chapter had the option to purchase a quarter-section, it wanted only the property that buffers the water courses, as well as an upland area to promote pheasant nesting.
Rall said the parcel appealed to Pheasants Forever because it expands upon an existing Pheasant Run parcel already established. In addition, the land includes 22 acres of “moderate density prairie,” which is considered a high priority to protect due to the dwindling amount of native prairie that remains in the state.
“We feel it’s a good fit for water quality improvement and habitat development,” Rall told commissioners.
“As stewards of our area … we have to be cognizant of having some places for things,” added Pheasants Forever board member Les Johnson. “It isn’t just about a place to shoot something. Minnesota places a high priority on places where we can go and see nature.”
To pay for the land, Rall said the Pheasants Forever Chapter contributed $75,000 with an equal match in critical Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM) funds generated through the sale of critical habitat plates in Minnesota. A DNR acquisition specialist assisted the chapter in getting the additional funds for the purchase.
The crop land included in the purchase will be seeded to a mix of flowers and grasses, Rall said.
In other action, the board:
* Received information from Chuck Brandel, an engineer with I&S Group of Mankato, regarding drainage projects. Brandel is working on two potential drainage improvement projects that involve landowners in both Jackson and Nobles counties. The purpose of Brandel’s presentation was to educate commissioners on the process for conducting drainage improvements.
* Learned about a new project of Nobles County Community Services in which a satellite Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) clinic will be established inside the West Learning Center to better meet the needs of the county’s diverse population. In addition, Public Health will work out of temporary space in the Community Services office at the Nobles County Government Center while the elevator system isn’t operable.
* Received a report from Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder on the five-year construction program for county roads and bridges. The report has been tweaked, and will continue to be as funding is reserved to completed projects.Slated to be completed this year are bituminous overlays on County State Aid Highway 36 from Minnesota 60 to CSAH 1; on CSAH 19 from Minnesota 91 to CSAH 35; on CSAH 35 Oxford Street west of Diagonal Road; and on CSAH 25 from Worthington to Wilmont. Also included are the replacement of two bridges, one on CSAH 17 and one on CSAH 1; and a bituminous overlay and resurfacing on Nobles County 78 in St. Kilian.
Commissioners also discussed briefly the potential to bond for road projects. They may schedule a work session to discuss the idea further.
* Approved the updated local water management plan as written by Nobles County Environmental Services, the Soil and Water Conservation District and watershed partners.
* Approved solid waste and recycling hauling permits for 2014.
* Approved a resolution opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s revised Renewable Fuels Standard. The comment period on the proposed changes continues through Jan. 28
* Accepted two certificates of excellence from the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust in recognition of an outstanding experience in workers compensation and outstanding loss ratio under 50 percent.
* Declared a 1994 Household Hazardous Waste collection trailer, a 1970 flexible pipe rodder and a 1956 Chicago air compressor unit as surplus property. The items will be advertised with sealed bids accepted.
* Approved a 30-day extension on a leave of absence for an employee in community services; and approved a catastrophic medical leave sharing bank policy.
* Reviewed the county audit report. There were a couple of concerns relating to the former auditor-treasurer’s name still included on the signature card for a couple of banks the county does business with. Administrator Tom Johnson said the matter was cleared up immediately.
* Discussed a potential new vision statement for the county: “Looking Forward with Purpose.” There will be discussion with the management team about the idea, with further discussion and approval at a future board meeting.
* Appointed David Benson to the Community Services Advisory Committee; and approved the reappointments of Gary Hibma and Tom Ahlberg to the Nobles County Park Board.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.