The Dawson County Board of Commissioners met to tackle a heavy agenda on June 21st.
The final agenda item was most likely the heaviest of the agenda items as it involved the Assessor’s Office in the Dawson County Courthouse.
Ruth Sorensen, State Property Tax Administrator for the Nebraska Department of Revenue addressed the commissioners about phone calls her office has been receiving from constituents expressing concerns about assessments and taxes since February.
“When we receive frequent calls about similar issues our ears perk up,” said Derrick Niederklein, a state field operations supervisor who appeared with Sorenson and works with county officials.
An investigative visit was made to the Dawson County Assessor’s Office on May 30th, and misinformation in record keeping was found.
Sorenson said improvements on some parcels had not been assessed. For example, one property that had sold for $300,000 in February 2017 showed a valuation of $32,000 that same year.
Sorenson said that delays in recording information, including on the county parcel website, affect public trust.
“If it doesn’t change, it creates a very stressful situation for the county assessor and for our office,” Sorenson said.
Another member of Sorenson’s team, Cyndy Hermsen, did a random check of 17 sales that showed 35 percent had errors. Additionally, some of the records she requested could not be located in the office.
Sorenson said that sales are to be reported to the state within a month and haven’t been and that the record keeping appears to be sloppy in the office.
The investigation also showed failure to provide timely valuation notices. Apparently a printing glitch led to 1,000 valuation notices being sent out late.
Commissioner Dennis Rickertsen asked, “What do we do about this?” All five of the commissioners agreed that they wanted to work with Sorenson and her team to rectify the situation.
Commissioner Bill Stewart shared concerns that Moore holds an elected office and that no one on the board has the authority to run the assessor’s office.
Stewart asked if the county had the authority to go back and collect taxes if it found errors.
“I would go forward from this point,” Sorenson responded.
Sorenson explained that more efficient record keeping needs to be carried out on a daily basis and transfers need to be done in a timelier manner.
She and her team are willing to help County Assessor John Moore clean up the office and ensure that everyone is being assessed fairly and monitored more closely in the future.
Sorenson did say there was no determination that errors found were intentional, and that Moore told them that he had made attempts to change the work flow during the investigation.
Moore was present at the meeting, but did not speak. Sorenson did report that Moore and his office staff were more than willing to cooperate with her team in rectifying the situation.
“There are webinars available for education and reorganization of the office,” Sorenson said.
“The bottom line is we are willing to do whatever and whenever to correct this,” said Board Chairman Dean Kugler.
In other business, Official’s Receipts were filed as submitted: $408.00 – County Clerk; $25,522.39 – Register of Deeds; $15,801.13 – Clerk of District Court and $4,437.50 – Surveyor. Treasurer’s Receipts were approved as presented in the amount of $900,270.05 and claims were approved as submitted for $1,090,878.52.
Under Committee Reports, Commissioner Butch Hagan reported that the Opioid Crisis was discussed at the State Commissioners Workshop that he attended. The State recommends that county governments DO NOT enter into contracts regarding this. Commissioner Hagan also reported that CDL testing is being conducted at the Dawson County Fairgrounds. He noted that the landfill is going good and that the restrooms at the fairgrounds are also going good but are facing a shortage of funds since they are not eligible for matching funds.
Emergency Manager Brian Woldt reported that he would be seeking bids for roof replacements on a section of roof on the south part of the courthouse that was damaged by recent storms.
“The present roofing is a flat rubber roof that is over 30 years old and we will want to replace it with asphalt,” Woldt said.
Dawson County Sheriff Gary Reiber presented the May crime reports. There were 1,041 Total Services and 1,838 LEC Dispatch Calls for Service during the month. 186 new inmates were booked into the Dawson County Jail.
“The number of contract continues to be higher each month than our local population of inmates which is a good thing,” Sheriff Reiber noted.
Total revenues for the current fiscal year come in at $1,766,791.53 as compared to $1,437,810.29 for one year ago.
Dawson County Weed Superintendent Marty Craig appeared to recommend that a contract between Two Rivers Health Department and Dawson County for mosquito trapping be approved. The commissioners voted to enter into the contract with Two Rivers Health Department.
Discussion took place concerning a resolution to sign a project program agreement for a 2018 underwater bridge inspection agreement between Damson County and the State of Nebraska. The commissioners questioned why the county pays 20 percent of this cost when the county doesn’t own them. Deputy County Attorney Jared Dean and Roads Superintendent Mark Christiansen will study the resolution further and make a recommendation at the July 2nd meeting.
Randy Deans, Miller & Associates, opened three bids for two county bridges. There were three bid schedules available: Schedule A for one bridge project, Schedule B for the second bridge project and Schedule C for both bridge projects.
Saul Ramos Construction, Shelton bid $124,431.15 for A; $23,897.75 for B and no bid for C.
VanKirk Bros Contracting, Sutton bid $390,999.40 for C with no bids for A or B.
MidLand Contracting, Kearney also didn’t bid on A or B, with a bid of $425,625.26 for C.
Deans will bring back a recommendation to the July 2nd meeting.
A motion was made and seconded to approve installing ‘In God We Trust’ signs at the entrance of the east door outside of the Commissioners Meeting Room and at the west side, top of the 2nd floor by the Courtroom in the county courthouse. The motion carried with the cost of the signs being donated by Commissioner PJ Jacobson.
Pamela Mann, Executive Director of Region II Developmental Disabilities Services and Vickie Prillaman and Kylie Joyce from South Central Developmental Services in Cozad appeared with an agency update.
The agency serves 17 counties in Southwest Nebraska including Dawson, Frontier and Gosper counties. There are area agencies in North Platte, McCook, Ogallala and Cozad that provide direct services in the areas of vocational and residential training and supports. 171 individuals received services region-wide in the past year with 47 of these being from Dawson County. One half of these individuals live in group homes.
The agency’s Governing Board is comprised of one County Commissioner from each of the 17 counties formed under Interlocal Agreement. Commissioner Jacobson serves on the board from Dawson County.
The state provides the majority of the agency’s funding with the county providing 1.5 percent of the budget that amounted to $43,487 this past year or $1.80 per capita.
The commissioners commended Mann, Prillaman and Joyce on the continued exemplary service they provide to these individuals and pledged their continued support.
Prillaman told the commissioners that Joyce would be replacing her as Director of South Central Developmental Services when she retires after 33 years of service to the agency in August.
Veteran’s Service Officer Steve Zerr appeared with two recommendations for the Veteran Service Committee; both were approved.
Dick Prasch is reappointed to serve on the Veteran Service Committee and Robert Schwanz was appointed to fill the vacancy on a term ending in 2021 on the Veteran Service Committee that was vacated by Andy Cowan. Schwanz will be sworn in at 9 a.m. at the July 2nd meeting.
At 8:45 a.m. Chairman Dean Kugler opened the public hearing regarding a Special Use Permit made by Country Partners Cooperative to operate a temporary Grain Storage Facility.
CEO Tod Clark, Scott Hillius and Scott Bonine, Country Partners Cooperative and board member Seth Gruber spoke in favor of the storage facility. Clark explained that they need to adjust their grain storage capacity to accommodate six million bushels of corn and help time the shipments of the corn for maximum benefits to farmers and the cooperative.
Alice Peters and Penny Thorman spoke against it. They both expressed concerns with issues of dust, noise and lights on after dark that would affect those who live in farmhouses near the proposed facility. They also opposed the increased truck traffic that would occur if the facility was approved for the permit.
Dawson County Surveyor’s Office Zoning Administrator Pam Holbrook reported that the Dawson County Planning Commission had approved the permit request at their May 29th meeting.
Commissioner Dennis Rickertsen made a motion to approve the special use permit that was seconded by Commissioner Bill Stewart. The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the permit.
A resolution was approved for Transfer Budget Authority: Planning Administration - $641.03, District Judge - $2,405.26 and State Institution – $48,868.31.
Dan Schwartzkopf and Jason Boyd, representing the Krull Agency appeared in regards to the employee health insurance update and renewal. The commissioners voted to accept the renewal from Mid American Benefits for the employee health insurance, July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
The next regular meeting for the Dawson County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Monday, July 2nd beginning at 8:00 a.m. in the Dawson County Courthouse in Lexington, Nebraska.