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Reclassification Earns Approval At Hearing

April 11, 2013
Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

Imagine you held a public hearing for a drainage project and nobody showed up.

The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors did just that on Tuesday afternoon when they held a public hearing for right-of-way acquisition on a drainage ditch in the southern portion of the county. A total of three public hearings were scheduled for Drainage District 48 at the Palo Alto County Election Center on Tuesday afternoon, but the only people present for the first two hearings were the supervisors, Drainage Attorney Jim Hudson, Drainage Consultant Don Etler and Engineer Kent Rode of I&S Services.

For the final hearing on the Reclassification of DD48, four landowners turned out at 2 p.m. to hear the classification report.

Don Etler informed the supervisors that when work began on DD48, the open ditch's right-of-way was not uniform in width. "There were stretches where the right-of-way was only 33 feet wide, and you as drainage trustees have set a policy for a 100-foot uniform right-of-way on open ditches," Etler explained. "As part of this project, we had to acquire some additional right-of-way to meet the uniform 100-foot width."

According to Etler, classification commissioners Darrel Reed and Allan Stangl set a price of $3,000 an acre for land purchased for the right-of-way acquisition on the project.

With no landowners present to comment or object, the right-of-way acquisition was approved by the board.

The second hearing on the annexation of lands into the district addressed a concern by Mary Ann and Dennis Schumacher that lands being assessed for drainage in DD48 actually drained into the adjacent DD923. After researching the area and records, Etler determined that the claim had merit, and recommended to the supervisors that an 80 percent reduction to the assessed benefit total for DD48 be allowed for the Schumacher property, with the understanding that the Schumachers pursue a voluntary annexation of land into DD923. The recommendation was approved by the supervisors, who then approved the annexation report.

In the final hearing for the Reclassification, Etler explained that classification of farm lands is based on four factors - the number of acres; the wetness factor and need for drainage; use of drainage facilities and the proximity to the drainage facilities.

Etler presented maps of the district, showing each of the factors, and noted that paved roads receive a drainage benefit of 1.6, as they provide a 60 percent increase in surface runoff, while gravel roads are given a benefit rating of 1.3, as they provide a 30 percent increase in surface runoff.

"The average assessment for the acres in this district came to $83 per acre, with a high assessment of $204 per acre," Etler noted.

Actual costs for the cleanout and removal of trees and acquisition of additional right-of-way, along with reclassification and annexation fees at the end of March were $669,420.47, according to Palo Alto County Auditor Carmen Moser. "But, Secondary Roads will be paying for some culvert work they did as part of this project, so that takes the cost down to $605,525.47, plus there will be legal fees, engineering and legal publication fees from today's hearings to add into the final total."

Moser reminded those present that landowners had the option to pay the assessments when they came due in September, or they had the option to sign 10-year waivers at five percent interest.



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