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Nobles County talks tax-forfeited parcels, staircases at work session

WORTHINGTON -- Tax-forfeited properties, the Nobles County Government Center's staircases and walking trails in the city of Worthington were among topics discussed by county commissioners during a Monday morning work session.

WORTHINGTON - Tax-forfeited properties, the Nobles County Government Center’s staircases and walking trails in the city of Worthington were among topics discussed by county commissioners during a Monday morning work session.

The work sessions have become a common monthly gathering for commissioners. While they can’t take action on any of the agenda items, the meetings give them an opportunity to discuss ongoing projects and ask questions.
Discussion on tax-forfeited properties within the county has been ongoing for several months, leading up to a special public hearing at 6 p.m. April 7 at which cities and townships will be given the first opportunity to express interest in any of the properties.
Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer Beth Van Hove said both the city of Rushmore and the city of Brewster have expressed interested in tax-forfeited parcels within their communities. In each of those cases, the property would be demolished and the land developed as a marketable lot.
“That’s very positive that we’re going to get a lot of this junk cleaned up,” Commissioner Don Linssen said.
Van Hove said the county may be looking at another 20 or 30 properties being added to the list of tax-forfeited parcels this year if people don’t pay their taxes.

Another ongoing discussion has been repair of the staircases in the Government Center in downtown Worthington. During their meeting a week ago, commissioners rejected the low bid of more than $400,000 to complete the work and agreed to work with an architectural firm from Sioux Falls, S.D., on an alternate option.
Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson announced that a contract will be ready for commissioners at their April 7 meeting. The contract is for design work at a cost of $15,000.
Also discussed Monday were:

  • Maintenance of the bicycle and walking paths located within Worthington’s city limits, but constructed with grant dollars secured by Nobles County. The trail leads from Olson Park campground north along Crailsheim Drive and then east along Oxford Street. There is no formal agreement between the city and the county regarding maintenance of the trail.

Johnson said he would meet with Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson to discuss the issue. A point was also raised about the potential to install benches along the trail.

  • A request that will be coming before commissioners from an individual seeking participation in the Nobles Home Initiative. The initiative was offered for new home construction between April 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2017. The applicant, however, moved into the home in 2013.

“In my eyes, if you put a shovel in the ground before that date, you don’t qualify,” Commissioner Gene Metz said.

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  • Ongoing discussions in the state legislature regarding assessor accreditation. Johnson said he testified to the House tax committee on the issue, which is causing challenges in Nobles County because of the difficulty in finding qualified candidates for open positions in the assessor’s office.

“We’ve got to start thinking how we’re going to cover all of the assessing that needs to be done in all 19 jurisdictions,” said Johnson, adding that many of the individuals who do local township assessing may be retiring within the next decade.

  • Removal of the railroad ties along the short-line railroad in Rock and Nobles counties. Johnson said the Buffalo Ridge Regional Rail Authority is awaiting one more bid for removal of the ties before making a decision. The hope is that the ties can be cleared from the area and stockpiled at sites in Rock and Nobles counties before summer.
  • Real estate strategies for property the county is interested in related to the Nobles County Library in Worthington. This was a closed session.
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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