Four officials of Hettinger County held the spotlight Sept. 25th during a Public Panel Forum in the American Legion Hall of Regent.
Posted October 11, 2012
Four officials of Hettinger County held the spotlight Sept. 25th during a Public Panel Forum in the American Legion Hall of Regent. They answered questions from the crowd on various topics concerning the affairs of the county.
On stage were County Commissioners Rob Larson and Ron Friedt, County Auditor Roy Steiner and Job Development Director Mark Resner. Farm Bureau Director Carson Kouba was the moderator.
Rob Larson stated that the state has a very complicated formula for figuring the value of land and the interest rate varies each year.
“Property taxes have increased 27 percent due to a complex state formula,” said Roy Steiner. “Five years ago you could buy a quarter of land for $300 but now they are up to $2000. The increase has been triggered by hunters coming to the area and oil activity. Townships control their own roads. A crusher for gravel will not be set up for less than 20,000 yards of gravel. The county takes care of unorganized townships when they can. Mail and school routes must be taken care of. Schools can go up to 110 mills without losing state aid as for each dollar less than that amount they will lose $1.50 in aid. Some tax money goes to the state medical center and the Southwest Water Authority.” Kent Maershbecker commented that schools must spend their money each year or lose it for the next year. New England is getting hit hard as schools operate on last year’s per student funding even though they have an increase in students.
Tom Geerts of Mott spoke on Home Rule. Each city in the county has their own home rule with taxes for their needs. Taxpayers have to vote to combine offices. County commissioners can not raise taxes.
County Extension Agent Duaine Marxen said they are working on housing in each area as every house is filled in the communities. As people move in they are looking for any space to park their bed and belongings such as buildings that have been vacant for years, garages, basements and one had a ‘stairwell apartment’—a place to lay his head in a stairwell. Some have no heat, electricity or running water.
Mark Resner said there is no oil activity in Hettinger County. Some companies have been sold to others and some have pulled out. He said laws need to be changed so that proximity counties of oil producing areas get some money for needed services. Five wells in a county will trigger the need to get money. Hettinger County has not been eligible. He showed two posters depicting the location of the Bakken formation and the oil wells in that area. Kunze Township in the northwestern corner of the county has some oil permits. It would cost $300,000 to bring roads up to standards to handle the big trucks needed for a well. Counties cannot zone oil. The Industrial Commission does that but they can’t do anything about dust or traffic on road sites. Many trucks are already dumping sewage in New England.