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Supervisors Reinstate Annexation

By Staff | Oct 21, 2010

Even though it hasn’t rained in nearly two weeks, drainage issues continue to occupy the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. Board members met with two groups of landowners during the weekly board meeting to address questions over a repair project on a drainage district, and then reinstated an annexation request by a landowner that was originally approved in late September.

Rick Kniep, Rick Elbert and Jeremy Sitzman, landowners in Section 20 of Emmetsburg Township, met with the board to discuss a drainage assessment they received on a parcel of land located in Drainage District 122 for work done to the district’s facilities, including the replacement of some tile that had failed.

Kniep explained how the trio split the taxes on the land, and had paid those taxes earlier this Fall. “I got a call from one of the women who explained the tax check was a couple cents short and she asked if it was OK to change the amount to reflect the two cents,” Kniep said. “I said that was fine, and then she mentioned that we had a drainage assessment that was going to be delinquent that we knew nothing about. What I’m here to ask is why didn’t we get a bill on this assessment and why didn’t the work that was done to that tile improve our drainage?”

Elbert informed the board that there was an area of around 10 to 12 acres that had flooded out and would not drain in the tract, and wondered why, with the replacement of tile, the area didn’t drain.

Supervisor Ron Graettinger, who had previously farmed the same ground, noted that there was a need for more tile intakes, as the property was very low. “And, there’s blue clay under that and it just doesn’t drain good.”

“Assessments and classifications for farmlands were all done about 100 years ago,” noted Supervisor Ed Noonan. “Are they fair today? No. But, to reclassify farmland is also an expensive process.”

“According to Drainage law, the poorest drained soils get the highest assessments and that’s the law that was set up a hundred years ago,” agreed Supervisor Keith Wirtz. “Is if fair? Probably not, but the only way to get it changed is through legislation in Des Moines.”

Noonan explained that when another landowner in the district had petitioned for relief, the board, as trustees, investigated and found the original tile was “shot.” “It was easier to just put in new than to fix that old tile.”

“We had no idea at the time what your bill for the repairs would be,” Noonan assured Kniep. “We were just acting in good faith as the trustees of the district.”

“It’s insane that one person can ask for a repair and then everyone pays for it,” commented Jeremy Sitzman. “I know the person who requested the work is paying the least amount of the assessment. That’s pretty convenient, I guess, but if I was paying the least amount, I’d ask for improvement work too.”

“If you were to request a re-classification out there, you’d pay the highest amount of that cost, because you’d have the highest benefit of the drainage,” Graettinger pointed out, bringing the discussion to a close.

Drainage Attorney Jim Hudson appeared before the board to discuss the board’s action two weeks prior to suspend annexation proceedings for 230 acres of lands into Drainage District 21 that had been petitioned by Soper Farms.

“I understand you had questioned raised to you about this process and because you had questions, you stopped the annexation, and for the confusion, I apologize,” Hudson began. “When we first appeared, I told you I’d visited with Drainage Engineer Don Etler to see if the open ditch of DD21 could handle the added flow of this proposed tile, and he told me “no problem,” but I did not get a written report at that time. I have it now, and I apologize for not having it then.”

“We were concerned because we were told that Phil Stillman had not been approached by anyone about this tile running through his property, and we felt he should have been talked to before you came to us,” Graettinger replied.

“We have private drainage agreements with both Mr. Stillman and Ken Sikora, but we could not execute those agreements until we are actually part of the Drainage District,” Hudson said. “We would respectfully ask that you reinstate the annexation agreement for Soper Farms to join Drainage District 21.”

“We just needed to hear that everybody is on board with this,” Wirtz said, as Graettinger agreed.

Hudson reiterated that the 230 acres in question would continue to pay drainage assessments in Drainage Districts 80 and 67, as well as full assessments to DD 21. Additionally, all costs for the annexation, from the cost of tiling to engineering and reclassification, would be borne by Soper Farms, with no expense to the district.

With that, the Supervisors voted unanimously to reinstate the annexation, allowing the project to move ahead.

In a related item, the board held a brief telephone conference with the Pocahontas County Supervisors and voted unanimously to enter into a 28E agreement with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for a feasibility study on a drainage project proposal for Joint DD 36.