County still debating about severed mineral parcel taxes

County Clerk Tina Spencer opened up administrative business at the weekly Marion County Board of Commissioners meeting by updating the board on the upcoming tax foreclosure sale and the topic of severed minerals. This was a follow-up to last week’s meeting when County Treasurer Susan Berg notified the board of her intent to send letters to delinquent taxpayers on or before April 1. Berg has also mentioned that a second letter would then be issued by the tax sale attorney to those who don’t respond, notifying the property owners that non-payment will result in the properties being placed into the tax foreclosure sale.

At last week’s meeting, Berg asked whether or not to include severed mineral parcels in the sale. The commissioners held off on making any decisions at that time and requested more information, which Spencer provided during Monday’s meeting.

Spencer explained that there are nine severed mineral parcels that qualify for the tax sale for a total of $1,855.72.

“The average tax base amount is only $22, basically. The rest of it’s all fees and delinquent charges,” said Spencer. “The total amount of the severed mineral tax generated in the whole county, through this last November, was only $5,546.95, so the amount of severed mineral tax that the county received is very small and the process and the tracking of that are pretty labor-intensive, so this might be a good time to do away with the severed mineral tax.”

Spencer explained that they could still get the mineral rights reverted back to the land owners’ parcels and just not deal with the severed mineral tax anymore.

“I don’t want to say that every dollar doesn’t count, but I think the amount of administrative time that gets spent on those, it would suggest to me that it might be worth looking at eliminating,” said County Attorney Brad Jantz.

After much discussion, the board decided to hold off again on making a decision.

Park and Lake Superintendent Isaac Hett updated the board on the dam project that he has been working on for several months.

“They sent in their original reconstruction plans, and it was approved. That was mainly to make sure they weren’t going to have to make any major changes to get things up to code,” said Hett.

Sustainable Environmental Consultants is the company who did all of the estimates for the dam. They presented three options in the Sept. 27 commission meeting, and the board voted for the Minimum Repair estimate.

The Minimum Repair estimate involves excavating and reshaping the 10 eroded areas to remove the irregular shape and concentrated ditches, lining the reshaped areas with geotextile, and backfilling with rock. Next will be excavating the sediment and removing undesirable vegetation from the downstream slope, diversion channel (entire length of the dam). The final step would be to reshape the diversion channel and berm to meet or exceed the design dimension and elevation on the original blueprint plans. The total estimate for that option at the time was $83,900, but there are no guarantees on cost, as there may be unforeseen issues.

“For the start of the construction, it’s looking like late summer at the absolute earliest—probably fall,” said Hett. “I don’t really have any idea of a timeline or anything else.”

He said they also aren’t sure yet construction-wise if they will have to get above the dam or if they can just work from the little brim area. If the construction has to be done above the dam, the road will have to be closed down for a while. Hett said they will know more once they figure things out with the contractor.

The project will be rather extensive, but Hett said they will do as much as they can to keep the dam and roads accessible. He said he will keep the board informed as the project develops.

The board approved unanimously to move forward with the project.

Kelly Taylor from SafeHope spoke with the board, letting them know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

Taylor, who works in Marion, Harvey and McPherson Counties, explained that in the United States alone, nearly one in five women and one in 67 men have been raped at some time in their lives and that one in six boys and one in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. She explained that sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are widespread problems in all communities.

The board voted unanimously to proclaim the month of April 2022 as “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” in Marion County.

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