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Supervisors Discuss Debt Collections, Right-Of-Way Acquisition Policies

By Staff | May 13, 2008

Questions over the procedures for collecting on delinquent loans and an explanation of the county’s right-of-way acquisition policies were the main topics of discussion at the May 6 meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. The board also held a telephone conference call with the Kossuth County Board of Supervisors regarding annexation of lands into a joint drainage district.

Palo Alto County Attorney Peter C. Hart was present at the meeting on Tuesday to explain the procedures for collecting delinquent economic development loans made in the past by the supervisors to individuals in the county. With the board supporting a revolving loan fund to be administered by the Palo Alto County Economic Development Corporation, the supervisors want to “clean up” some old loans they made in the past.

According to Hart, any loan of $5,000 or less would be handled through the Small Claims Court, with a filing fee of $50.

“Prior to commencing suit in small claims court, the debtor should be sent a ‘Notice to Cure’ letter setting forth the amount due and the date by which the delinquency should be paid in full. If the date for payment passes without full satisfaction, then the petition should be filed with the $50 filing fee, together with payment of sheriff’s fees for service of process.”

Loans greater than $5,000 would have to be pursued through the District Court, according to Hart. “A filing fee of $100 must be paid to the court, and the Economic Development Council would need to secure private counsel to collect on these obligations.”

“As far as your question as to whether I can pursue these debts, part of the County Attorney’s duty is to clarify by what is and is not part of the County Attorney’s duties,” Hart said. “I must respectfully decline your request for the County Attorney’s office to collect on these loans.”

Hart cited caseload and limitations of time as primary reasons why he was declining to pursue the debt collections.

“I do know that Kossuth County Economic Development utilizes the Buchanan Law Firm to collect their debts, and they do have a local office,” Hart told the board. “Perhaps that might be an option for the board.”

Currently, the board is looking at collecting on three outstanding loans, and has filed small claims action against one debtor.

Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz discussed the payment schedule for the right-of-way acquisition along the N60 corridor, or 530 Avenue, with the board, noting that there were some changes in the rates from the last acquisitions near Graettinger a year ago.

“For fence damage, we will pay $2 per rod if the county removes the fence at its own expense, or the landowner can remove and salvage the materials,” Fantz noted. “Electric fence is an additional $1 per rod, a one up to three-wire fence will receive an additional $7 per rod and a woven wire fence will receive an additional $10 per rod.”

According to the engineer, fence damage payments are made to the landowners right away, but any additional payments will not be made until the fence is replaced, with a one-year time limit.

“For those who have already applied fertilizer, we are paying the actual cost of the fertilizer, but not the labor,” Fantz noted.

Fantz also noted that the valuation of lands for the right-of-way would continue to be determined using the comparative estimates of the land’s CSR, or Corn-Soybean Rating, as determined by the Farm Service Agency. Additionally, land for borrow pits will be set at $1,200 per acre.

“Right-Of-Way is very sensitive and we try to work with the landowners, but treat them all fairly and the same way,” noted Fantz as the discussion concluded.

Sheriff Denny Goeders visited with the board about the possibility of obtaining a squad car that is equipped for use with a K9.

“I got a call from sheriff Dean Kruger in Humboldt County and he has a 2006 Ford Crown Vic patrol car that is equipped with $3,000 worth of equipment for a K9,” Goeders explained. “Their dog is retiring and they will not have need for this car, so he offered it to us for $10,000.”

According to Goeders, the squad car has three to four years of useful life remaining, while Deputy Eric Ring, who will be the K9 officer in Palo Alto County, currently has a patrol car with 130,000 miles on it and is due for replacement in 2009.

“I’d like to get this car from Humboldt for $10,000, versus spending $23,000 for a new car and then another $3,000 to equip it for the K9,” Goeders said. “I already have two cars budgeted for replacement in the coming year’s budget, but not Eric’s car.”

After a brief discussion on funding for the vehicle, the board agreed to amend the sheriff’s budget to allow for the purchase of the vehicle from Humboldt County.

In a related matter, the supervisors set 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 27, as the time for several budget amendments in the supervisors’ boardroom of the courthouse.

The board also held a telephone conference with the Kossuth County Board of Supervisors regarding lands draining into Joint Drainage District PAK1. The lands currently drain into DD79, but due to a new tile hookup, now drain into PAK1 with other lands that were recently voluntarily annexed into PAK1. On a motion by Kossuth County Supervisor Don Besch that was seconded by Palo Alto Supervisor Ron Graettinger, a letter will be sent to the landowner suggesting they pursue voluntary annexation into PAK1 from DD 79. Both boards approved the motion unanimously.