Residents lament delays in system

BLUE EARTH – A couple of Faribault County residents say tax-forfeited property is moving through the system too slowly. County leaders say they’ll try to speed things up.

Bryan Stensland asked commissioners Tuesday why it takes so long for properties to be made available to the public.

“Three years later, they’s still sitting there” and have been deteriorating, Stensland said. “I inquired about one and I know less about it now than I did before.”

He added that during the time properties spend in limbo, small cities aren’t getting taxes paid.

Commissioner Tom Loveall said properties have to go through due process. A property owner can be delinquent on taxes for three years before the land comes into possession of the county.

During that time, the owner probably will not spend any money or time to fix up a property, noted Commissioner Tom Warmka.

“I would like to see these buildings cleaned up, but where will the money come from?” he asked.

“We have not had a sale in a few years,” said Auditor John Thompson, adding that the next one will probably be this fall.

It’s difficult to schedule sales because other things take precedent, said Warmka, pointing out that Thompson will be handling election matters in the next few months.

“We do look [properties] over and get an opinion on how much value they’ve got,” said Loveall, adding that, in general, the policy is to move land back into the public’s hands, but the county has gotten behind on it.

Bob Loge said an old elevator site by the railroad track in Frost that had been turned over to the county needs to be taken down, and the grass is 2 feet high.

There are people who want to buy the property, but there are problems with the lien, Loge said. He wants commissioners to get something moving.

The state Department of Agriculture is testing the site to see if chemicals need to be cleaned up, since it was a former Cargill property, Thompson noted.

Loveall says he wants to make sure things are done right so properties don’t “boomerang” back to the county, as has happened in the past.

“Knowing who the buyer is and what they want to do with it so it doesn’t come back to us,” Loveall said. “If we have the opportunity to do it right, that’s judicious of us.”

In county employment news, Dawn Fellows of Central Services announced Frankie Bly is retiring from the transit department.

Fellows also said Becky Nagel has resigned, and asked the board to approve hiring Angela Murphy as a full-time clerk typist to handle passport applications. The board agreed.

County Attorney Troy Timmerman announced that attorney LaMar Piper plans to retire soon, so Timmerman asked the board to appoint an attorney to handle juvenile, misdemeanor and child protection cases on a permanent basis. Piper has been working part-time.

Timmerman said someone already has expressed an interest, and Fellows said Timmerman has the ability, according to state statute, to appoint someone.

“We should run this through the budget,” Loveall said.

Timmerman agreed there is time, and still some money left in the fund from the part-time position.