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Murray County Commissioners trying to maximize revenue

SLAYTON -- In an effort to maximize revenue resources, Murray County commissioners discussed and voted on several resolutions and motions Tuesday morning that included possible assessments for solid waste and 911 rural signs and emergency service contracts.

Murray County Emergency Medical Services Director Jim Gertsema had met with the board in September to discuss establishing a funding source for county-wide ambulance coverage. According to Gertsema, Murray County is one of the few ambulance services in the state not under contract with local cities and municipalities in their service area.

A fee schedule was established at $10 per capita for cities and $35 per section for townships, which would bring in approximately $37,000 a year to help fund the service.

The commissioners voted to approve the motion, which Commissioner Bob Moline said has "been a long time coming."

Gertsema said the money would be specifically set aside to be used for rig replacement. The last ambulance the county purchased cost $105,000.

Areas which use other ambulance coverage, such as the cities of Fulda and Chandler, will not be included in the contracts.

"They are actually agreements," Gertsema explained. "We can't sign into legal binding contracts."

Gertsema said he has spoken to several of the city boards and municipalities and will visit with the others. The townships he has spoken with, he said, will bring the agreement up at their March meetings, and most said they would implement the measure for 2010 and backdate it.

The per capita numbers for the cities were based on state demographics, and became the subject for discussion briefly.

The commissioners expressed surprise that Murray County populations are as low as they are, with Slayton at 1,942. According to the state, Lake Wilson has a population of 248, Iona is at 146, Hadley at 60, Currie at 200 and Avoca at 117.

The commissioners also discussed possible resolutions regarding assessments for solid waste and 911 rural signs. Currently, the assessments are for residential property, and do not include wind towers or properties with outbuildings only. Ag and Solid Waste Administrator Jon Bloemendaal said full-time residents are assessed $16. The assessment pays for the demolition landfill shortfalls and other related items. If wind towers were assessed and parcels of land worth $1,000 or more were assessed, it would bring an approximately $4,000 into the coffers.

The commissioners voted the resolution down, with Moline stating he had a building site that would be assessed and he was against it.

"I'm not a big fan of putting a solid waste assessment on the wind towers," Commissioner Kevin Vickerman added. "I think they generate enough revenue."

The resolution to add assessments of $3 for rural 911 signs to wind towers and non-residential properties passed, which will increase the revenue used to replace and maintain the signs. Currently, approximately $6,700 is brought in a year with the assessment, but with the additions, Emergency Management Director Jim Reinert said the funds would be closer to $18,000 a year.

Many of the signs will be due for replacement by 2018, and Reinert said the money currently being raised is "woefully inadequate to replace and maintain" the signs.