After hearing from a packed board room consisting mostly of Emmetsburg business owners on Thursday, Dec. 13, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors went ahead with their plans and approved a resolution entering into a loan agreement for a $5 million bond. The bond will be used to pay for improvements to the county’s roads.
Concerns about the “unfairness” of taxation was the main concern of those present. According to Susan Judkins with Piper Jaffray, the county’s financial advisor, 73 percent of the project will be paid by property owners outside the incorporated city limits. Twenty-seven percent of the project will be payed by property owners within the incorporated city limits. Within the city of Emmetsburg, specifically, 17 percent of the project will be paid for by both residential and commercial property owners–7.5 percent by homeowners and 9.5 percent by commercial or industrial property owners.
County Attorney Peter Hart, speaking as a Palo Alto County citizen, informed those present that if anyone contests the bond, they have 15 days from the date of passage of the resolution to enter into a loan agreement to file a petition in district court opposing the action.
Hart had concerns over the language of Iowa Senate File 339, passed by Governor Chet Culver, that allows a county to bond for essential county purposes such as economic development without the approval of a public vote. To resolve Hart’s question, a phone call was placed to Bob Josten of Dorsey & Whitney, the county’s bonding attorney. Josten answered that legislative intent was to allow the county to bond for roads that are related to economic development, and that Hart might be viewing the language too narrowly.
“If the board is comfortable with it, this [project] is going to enhance those facilities [Poet, AGP, etc.] and some others, I think this is consistent with what the legislature had in mind,” said Josten.
Following nearly three hours of discussion and debate, the Supervisors began to bring the meeting to a close.
“Is there anybody sitting in the crowd now that plans on filing a lawsuit?” asked Chairman Ron Graettinger.
There being no answer from the public, Graettinger continued, “We don’t want to go ahead and spend a lot of money if we’re not going to get anywhere. Otherwise, I’ll entertain a motion to either go forward or not.”
Paul Saxton interjected, “I’ve been here 30 years and this commercial thing, this property thing just builds. I know something needs to be done to these roads, but it’s just a fairness thing. I didn’t ruin those roads, and I find it hard to justify why I have to foot the bill to repair them.”
“If we get a busload together to go down to Des Moines to the legislature to discuss fair taxes, would anyone go with us?” proposed Graettinger. “I think we need to get four or five counties and go down there and tell them how they feel about this.”
“I’d like to make a motion to proceed with the loan agreement,” said Supervisor Jerry Hofstad, who was seconded by Ed Noonan. A roll call vote brought all ayes from the board members, ending the meeting.