The Check Is In The Mail!
“Persistence pays off when you’re on the right side.”
With those words, Senator Jack Kibbie made an excellent close to a multi-year odyssey through the courts and ultimately through the State Legislature to collect a drainage assessment for Palo Alto County in the amount of $96,000 for Drainage District 80 and Five Island Lake.
The State of Iowa’s Executive Council, which is comprised of Governor Terry E. Branstad, Secretary of State Matt Schultz, State Auditor David Vaudt, State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, met at the state capital on Tuesday, April 26, and voted to make the payment of $96, 633.83 to the Drainage District 80 trustees for the original assessment placed on Five Island Lake. Ag Secretary Bill Northey moved to approve the payment, and Governor Branstad seconded the motion that led to the approval of the payment.
The Executive Council had taken up the issue of the payment two weeks earlier, according to Kibbie, but had tabled action at that time, as legislation passed by both the Iowa House and Senate during the current session That assessment, which was levied in 2005 following work and an annexation of lands into the drainage district, was contested by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on technical grounds. The assessment was argued twice in district court, with the county first winning the case, only to have the State appeal the decision and win the appeal.
The Palo Alto County Boars of Supervisors, acting as the trustees of DD80, continued to pursue all possibilities of getting the DNR and the state to pay the assessment, including meetings with then-head of the DNR, Rich Leopold, who ultimately passed the responsibility for the decision on payment to the Executive Council.
A special Legislative Committee met at the statehouse on Dec. 15 to take up several drainage issues, including the DD80/Five Island case. Testimony was heard from Dean Lemke, Engineering Supervisor of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, John Torbert, Executive Director of the Iowa Drainage District Association, Palo Alto County Drainage Attorney Robert Brinton and Palo Alto County Drainage Engineer Don Etler.
David Dorrf, an Assistant Attorney General representing the DNR and Wayne Gieselman, Administrator of the Environmental Services Division of the DNR, also presented testimony.
After hearing testimony for several hours, the Legislative Study Committee developed several recommendations and clarifications regarding drainage law. After approving those recommendations, the committee agreed that the state should pay the assessment, and sent a recommendation to the Executive Council for the payment.
However, the committee’s recommendation to the Executive Council was delayed by the Attorney General’s Office, who objected to the recommendation, contending the original district court decisions were the final word on the issue.
But with the start of the 2011 Legislative session, specific legislation regarding notification to state agencies regarding assessments was developed and passed by both chambers in the statehouse, and legislation regarding the payment of assessments made by counties against state-owned lands was also introduced, with a final measure, Senate File 428, gaining unanimous approval in both the House and Senate. The measure was sent to the Governor, who signed the measure into law on April 15.
“I’m very happy to see this issue resolved,” Kibbie said Wednesday morning. “This was a case where we were trying to fix what many people believed were mistakes that were made and needed to be made right. Now, things have been made right and it’s a testament to persistence.”