A resolution from property owners who don't want to pay taxes to help maintain a nearby county ditch did not go as they were hoping.
Douglas County commissioners denied the petition from Alexandria Township landowners – Michael Rachel (parcel 03-1254-000), Rebecca Just (parcel 03-1257-000) and Douglas and Cindy Bruggeman (parcel 030-1257-470) – to remove their benefited acres from County Ditch 6.
The decision was made after a public hearing Tuesday, June 1. The hearing had been continued from a hearing held May 18 because the commissioners wanted to gather more information before making their decision.
The landowners had brought the petition forward because they felt they were not getting any benefit from the ditch even though they are being assessed for it.
During the previous hearing, Bernie Rachel, who spoke on behalf of his children, Rachel and Just, said the ditches weren’t draining, but we’re holding water instead.
Douglas County Drainage and Ag Inspector Tom Anderson said that he had walked the properties, as well as taken photos. He explained to the commissioners, again, that if the ditch was working properly, it would drain water from the properties in question. However, he said that if a request was made to clean and repair the ditch, he would do it.
Anderson also said that in order to remove properties from a county ditch, they had to meet three criteria per state statute and that it had to be all three and not just one or two.
The criteria included:
That the waters from the petitioners' property have been diverted from the drainage system, or that the property cannot significantly or regularly use the drainage system.
That the property is not benefited by the drainage system.
That removing the property from the drainage system will not prejudice the property owners and property remaining in the system.
Anderson said the properties did not meet all three of the criteria.
County Board Chairman Jerry Rapp said that the county had to follow the criteria but offered up another suggestion. He said the property owners could petition to vacate the entire ditch.
Anderson said in order to vacate or abandon a ditch system, or even a portion of the ditch system, there would be a process to follow. Petitions would have to be submitted and hearings would be held. He said there could be potential for abandonment if all the properties along County Ditch 6 signed the petition, adding that there would also be potential to abandon a section of the ditch.
In order for the property owners to petition for abandonment, they have to prove that the “drainage system is not of public benefit and utility because the agricultural property that used the drainage system has been generally abandoned or because the drainage system has ceased to function and its restoration is not practical.”
It was not determined at the meeting if the property owners will petition for the abandonment of County Ditch 6.
With the renovations of the new Douglas County Administration Building nearly finished, the commissioners are looking at remodeling the Douglas County Services Center building.
At the Tuesday meeting, they gave the approval and go-ahead to Mod Feders with Buetow 2 Architects to firm up plans for the remodel, at a cost between $900,000 and $1.1 million.
Feders shared preliminary sketches with the commissioners. Those sketches, however, were not made available to the newspaper per Douglas County Coordinator Heather Schlangen, who cited they were not public because of “security data.”
According to information supplied by Feders, the concept designs would meet the needs of the various department heads if they were to be implemented.
The remodeling project would involve space in the following offices, including Minnesota Extension Office, Social Services, License Bureau, Horizon Public Health, Hospice of Douglas County, Land and Resource Management, Information Technology and Assessor.
The project would consist of demolition, construction of new walls/doors, new carpet, new paint, mechanical, electrical and technology work.
The total square footage to be remodeled is about 11,550 square feet.
The plan would be for the remodeling project to be completed yet this year, with a goal to have the project done by the end of the year.