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Interest Charges Discussed By Supervisors

By Staff | May 19, 2011

Palo Alto County’s Board of Supervisors closed out the six-year odyssey of the Drainage Ditch 80 Assessment battle with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Tuesday morning, May 17. A final decision was made by the Supervisors regarding the back interest accrued on the assessment since the original levy in 2005.

Palo Alto County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker informed the board members that after several weeks, the state’s payment of $96,000 was transferred electronically to the county on Monday to pay the original assessment. However, since the assessment had been first levied in 2005, interest had been accruing on the unpaid amount in the interim. That interest amounted to just over $44,000.

Hilfiker had come before the board to seek a resolution as to continue to bill the state for the interest, or to make an adjustment order to cancel the interest debt. That question prompted discussion between the board members.

“This levy has been accumulating interest since 2005,” Hilfiker said. “Now, its up to $44,000. Are we ever going to see the state pay this back interest? Probably not.”

After giving the board a moment to consider the question, Hilfiker continued. “Do you just want to forget the interest or go after the state for it?”

“I do not approve of adjusting it and forgetting it,” Supervisor Ron Graettinger said, starting the discussion.

“I don’t know,” Board Chair Keith Wirtz said. “I think it’d be a tough go to get the money from them, but let’s go ahead and keep after them.”

“You know, people said that same thing when we said we were going to keep after the DNR for the $96,000, too,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said, ” But look what happened.”

“Keep after them,” agreed Supervisor Jerry Hofstad, as the discussion waned.

But after a period of time, the issue resurfaced as the board prepared to adjourn.

Deputy Auditor Carmen Moser and Hilfiker appeared to see what the board had decided. Moser pointed out that a levy was going to be made in the near future and that a decision needed to be made on the interest.

After having some time to think on the issue, attitudes had changed.

“You know, as I’ve thought about it, I keep thinking back to that hearing before Christmas, and the interest was mentioned just one time. The rest of the time, all that was mentioned was the $96,000,” Wirtz said. “Maybe we ought to just call it good, and be satisfied with what we’ve got not push our luck.”

“They still owe the money,” Noonan said.

“That’s true,” Graettinger agreed, “But maybe we should just be satisfied. There’s the new legislation that was adopted to address this issue in the future, so maybe we should just call it good and be done with it.”

“That’s why the legislature passed that law, because of our deal,” agreed Hofstad.

“Maybe we can use this if the DNR wants something from us in the future,” Noonan pointed out.

Graettinger then moved to approve an Adjustment Order to forgive the interest on the DNR assessment for Five Island Lake, and with a second from Supervisor Leo Goeders, Wirtz called for a roll call vote. Hofstad voted no, while Graettinger and Goeders voted aye. Noonan cast a nay vote to tie the question at 2-2, leaving Wirtz to break the tie.

“The chair votes aye and the motion is passed 3-2,” Wirtz said, closing the book on the drawn out episode.