Faribault Co. considers fee hikes

BLUE EARTH – Faribault County Commissioners discussed raising fees for building permits and changing the charge to be per structure, instead of per permit, on Tuesday.

Michelle Stindtman, program administrator of Faribault County Soil and Water Conservation District, asked the board members to consider raising the building permit fees the following amounts:

o $150 for a new structure, rather than the current $100 fee;

o $100, instead of $50, for the expansion of an existing structure;

o $50 for an accessory structure fee, instead of $30.

Stindtman also asked if the ordinance, which is very old, should be changed to charge for each structure, instead of by site. For instance, currently a homeowner can obtain a permit for a house and garage to be built within a year and be charged the one fee, Stindtman said. Yet, if they did not get the garage built in that one year or wanted to add another structure later, they would be charged for another permit. She reported some people saying the system was unfair.

Stindtman also voiced concerns about grain legs, grain dryers and other farm structures, saying the county does not currently charge a fee for them. The height of some of these structures can interfere with helicopters and ditch spraying, so the state requires documentation to track them, yet her office has no way to collect the required data.

Most other counties do charge a fee, she added.

The commissioners didn’t like the idea of charging separately for the farm structures.

Commissioner Tom Loveall said even though there are several structures on a farm site, they often work together, and requiring a permit for a bin and a permit for a leg seemed unfair:

“Seems to me that’s piling on,” he said. “It’s a unit, keep it as one.”

Commissioner Tom Warmka, himself a farmer, said farm sites bring revenue into the county.

“Shouldn’t be beating them (farmers) up,” he said.

“Everything has a site plan,” Commissioner Greg Young said. “If they’re incorporated into the site plan, that’s it.”

Loveall wanted to know when fees were last raised.

“The main reason we’re collecting the money is to cover the cost,” he said.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz wanted more research done before deciding.

The board voted to table the fees until the next meeting.

The board did vote to allow the Planning Commission to begin the process of updating the septic ordinance.

On another topic, commissioners met with local officials about selling wetland credits for the city of Blue Earth’s North Industrial Park project.

Bill Douglass, principal engineer and water resources group manager with Bolton & Menk, explained wetlands and the three ways to determine wetlands areas: plants, hydrology and soils.

The wetlands in the North Industrial Park cover 1.8 acres, and the city needs to purchase 3.6 acres to compensate.

Loveall said the market value was established at $22,215 an acre. The county, however, would sell them to the city for $11,107 an acre, for a total of $39,987, with the city picking up the sales tax and attached fees, which commissioners approved.

Auditor John Thompson and Attorney Troy Timmerman were instructed to draw up the document, which will be presented to Blue Earth City Council for approval.

“Really hope the project stays on track,” Loveall said.

With this being the first meeting of the year, the board approved annual items and considered appointments to various boards and committees, including who will take Carmen Klatt’s seat on the Extension board, which she held for 47 years until her death in December.

“She’s gonna be missed,” Warmka said.

The board approved a bounty of $2 on pocket gophers and 50 cents for striped and gray gophers.

Warmka asked if the board would consider a bounty on coyotes.

Groskreutz said people are already taking out coyotes because they are a nuisance and some are hunting the coyotes for the fur, which isn’t done for gophers.

“Takes quite a few to make a hat,” he said.