County Board wants more from appraisal

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


The Houston County Board continues to weigh its options on Highway Department facility needs and expected to gain insight from an appraisal on the Roverud Construction building in Spring Grove. The board is considering re-purposing the Spring Grove building for the Highway Department.

A previous board had offered the owner, Curt Roverud, $1.2 million, according to Commissioner Steve Schuldt. But, Bi-State Realty & Appraisals of West Salem, Wis., came up with a market value of just $465,000.

“Curt (Roverud) didn’t like it,” Schuldt said.

The board asked County Assessor Tom Dybing to share his thoughts on the appraisal. “I had a few concerns with it,” Dybing said, adding that he would have liked to see a cost approach in the conclusion in addition to the sales comparison and income approach that were provided. He said the cost approach allows you to look at what it would cost to build the same facility today.

Dybing said he was also concerned the comparables were too far away. “Two are in Bemidji, one is in Miltona and one is in Spicer. I realize trying to find comparables is a hard thing to do, but I’m wondering if there are some in Winona or Rochester,” Dybing said.

“Comparables” is a real estate term referring to properties with characteristics that are similar to the property whose value is being sought.

Schuldt said he was wondering where the firm would get the comps and questioned if La Crosse sales would be germane.

Commissioner Justin Zmyewski asked if the concerns warrant a second appraisal, but County Auditor Char Meiners had the budget in mind. “How much money do you want to stick into appraising,” she asked.

The first appraisal cost $2,000.

The board decided to go back to  Bi-State Realty & Appraisals and press for more information, such as a number calculated by the cost approach.

As the county continues to weigh its options, it’s noteworthy to mention that estimates on building new have floated around the $6 million mark. So far, $600,000 has been set aside to address the situation, which has grown more and more dire over the years. In fact, just last year the building was sited by OSHA for its deficiencies.


Big time tax issue

In other news, Dybing warned the board that Minnesota Energy Resources has filed a tax court petition to address what they believe is an unfair utility assessment.

Dybing explained that all utilities and railroads in the state are evaluated by the state. These valuations represent significant dollar amounts. For example, in the city of La Crescent alone there are $2 million worth of natural gas pipes.

If Minnesota Energy Resources were to prevail in tax court it will have significant implications for Houston County’s budget. Even a 10 percent reduction in valuation would equal less tax revenue for the county.

Even worse, the county really has no say in the matter. “We’ll just find out the results,” Dybing said.


Personnel matters

Several personnel items were brought before the board by Human Resources Director Tess Arrick-Kruger, many of which address upcoming staffing vacancies.

First, the board approved internally posting a full-time jailer position. On Oct. 8 the board approved internally posting the lead jailer position with the expectation that there will be a good amount of interest in the lead position from current staff. Once someone is selected as the lead jailer, their slot will be vacant; thus, a need to post the job.

Similarly, once the full-time jailer position is filled, a part-time jailer position will open up, so the board approved posting that as well.

To address the upcoming loss of Public Health Director Deb Rock, Arrick-Kruger asked that Mary Thompson be named the interim director as of Nov. 4. Thompson is currently on phased retirement and will only work as a .6 FTE, but her experience will certainly remain useful as the county looks to fill this significant slot.


Road work

Four more road reconstruction projects were closed out by the board prior to adjournment.

They include:

• County 5 at a cost of $38,726.

• County 15 at a cost of $12,357.

• County 8 at a cost of $50,558.

• County 17 at a cost of $12,785.

The four projects were completed by Generation X Construction out of Rushford.