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County approves land transfers to DNR

WORTHINGTON -- Two land acquisitions recently completed by Nobles County Pheasants Forever will now be transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, following approval Tuesday by Nobles County Commissioners.

The parcels, both in Bigelow Township, are located within the city of Worthington's wellhead protection area and adjoin other properties already established as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

Wendy Krueger, DNR area wildlife manager at Slayton, said these properties will also be converted to WMAs and opened for public hunting, trapping and other purposes.

The parcels include 76.4 acres near Lake Bella -- consisting of a 68-acre tract from Allen Adams and 8.4 acres from Gordon Wiertzema -- and 47.86 acres of Catherine Seifert's property surrounding Ocheyedan Creek.

Two city wells are located on one of the parcels, so an acre of land was separated out and donated to the city of Worthington.

Krueger said the state will make a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) to Nobles County amounting to three-quarters of 1 percent of the purchase price for the first five years the land is enrolled as a WMA and then three-quarters of 1 percent on the appraised value of the land for each year after that.

Commissioners asked about the long-term viability of the state's PILT payment, with ongoing discussion at the state level about eliminating them.

"We would not support (the idea)," Krueger told the board. "We would not be able to purchase land anymore if the county wasn't able to have the revenue (in place of property tax)."

On most of the parcels purchased by Nobles County Pheasants Forever, the state's PILT payment has actually exceeded the amount of tax revenue the parcels generated when they were in private ownership.

Krueger said those parcels that have been in WMAs for five years or more will generate a PILT payment that is nearly double what was paid during the first five years of state ownership.

In other action, the board:

* Approved a daycare variance policy for Nobles County Family Services. The policy takes effect June 1, and includes a six-month grace period as the county moves to granting variances of up to two months for daycare providers, with the option of having an additional two-month extension.

Family Services Director Nicole Names said the agency has also taken some preliminary steps to encourage more daycares in the county to meet the large demand for childcare.

* Approved a request from Natural Resources Conservation Service District Administrator Stephanie McLain to seek a $2,000 grant from the 10-county southwest Minnesota Resource Conservation & Development board. The money would be used to help fund improvements to Ehlers Park on Lake Okabena, including paving the existing gravel parking lot and adding two rain gardens with buffers.

* Approved a resolution requesting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begin the proper proceedings to change the designation of the Topeka Shiner to a protected rather than endangered species.

Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the reclassification does not change the waiting period for construction projects in areas where the Topeka Shiner is present.

"It takes a step in the right direction to get it off the listing for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," Schnieder said.

* Approved final payment to Larson Crane Service of $4,738.03 for completion of a bridge construction project in Seward Township.

* Approved a request from Sheriff Kent Wilkening for one of his deputies to take an unpaid leave for up to six months. The leave of absence takes effect April 3.

* Approved a Regional Radio Board contract with the State of Minnesota, which will allow the state to place communications equipment on Nobles County's towers, and in return allow the county to place equipment on towers outside the county.

The contract is necessary as the county's emergency services migrate to the ARMER communications system.

* Was provided a brief update on the Health and Human Services Task Force. They will present potential options for a combined agency at the April 5 board meeting.

* Approved an application to the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership to participate in a renter rehab deferred loan program.

* Appointed Duane Schmitz and Jim Arndt to the Joint Airport Zoning Board.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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