The Grant County Board of Commissioners agreed to abate $6,000 in property taxes for the new Herman Community Center. Herman Economic Development member Dan Ellison and Herman City Council member Paul Blume brought the request to the commissioners. The building was built by HED with plans to turn it over to the city. But the final cost of the project was $1.2 million, a little higher than anticipated. HED has raised $900,000 so far in cash, pledges, and grants, but they cannot turn it over until it is paid for, which will require the raising of another $200,000. Since the HED has to pay property taxes and the city does not on property it owns, the Community Building has incurred a property tax bill of $42,000. This property tax will not be charged once the building is owned by the city.
Ellison said the city has already agreed to abate its portion of the property taxes, which amount to $24,000. He said the corporation has not decided yet to ask for an abatement on the school portion of the building’s property taxes.
Commissioner Peter Hoff said he was worried about setting a precedent.
But commissioner Bill LaValley reminded him the county granted an abatement on the recent addition to the Barrett Care Center.
County Auditor Chad VanSanten reminded LaValley that that abatement was part of the county policy for abating economic development projects. He also said the abatement would be for 2017, not taxes payable in 2016, so the county will not be out $6,000 in revenue this year.
Commissioner Todd Schneeberger also reminded the others that this building, when it is owned by the city of Herman, will be non-tax generating property anyway.
Commissioner Keith Swanson said the county had helped Ashby and Hoffman with similar requests before and should do the same for Herman.
With that, the board passed a motion to abate the county portion of the payable 2017 property taxes for the Herman Community Building.
Museum makes a funding request
Grant County Historical Museum Director Patty Benson requested $30,000 from the Grant County Board of Commissioners to help fund the museum for 2017. This is the same amount the museum received from the county last year.
Benson updated the commissioners on museum activities so far in 2016 and looked at 2017. She said the museum had a display at the annual Grant County FUNFest this past spring, and had an exhibit at a genealogy conference in Alexandria also. The museum produced new promotional brochures, as well as t-shirts and polo shirts they sell in their gift shop. The museum also installed a new energy efficient front window, and with the help of the American Legion from Barrett, fixed the museum flagpole. They also replaced the wooden fence at the pioneer log cabin and painted the one room country schoolhouse. The museum took part in Flekkefest with their Oldies but Goodies sale, which raised $1,200, and “Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader” contest.
In 2017, Benson said the Historical Society hopes to reshingle the country schoolhouse, and make space in the museum for a traveling exhibit they can host. Benson said she is also working on a Powerpoint presentation on how downtown Elbow Lake has changed over the years.
She said she is talking with the owner on using the old “Gillys” billboard on Highway #79 north of Elbow Lake to promote the museum.
Benson said one of the worries the museum board of directors is dealing with is an estimated $16,000 in assessments from recent street work. She said she is working with the city to try and figure out how much of the sidewalk on the south side of the museum is the responsibility of the museum and now much is the responsibility of the city of Elbow Lake.
The commissioners set a preliminary levy at $7,071,171. This preliminary levy represents a cut of $265,802 from the levy they looked at one month ago. The cuts came mostly in the proposed social services, public health, and highway department budgets. This is a preliminary levy only, and while it can not be raised, it can be lowered before the final levy is set in December.