Questions regarding revitalization around the Harvey County neighborhoods garnered a lot of talk at Monday's County Commission meeting, particularly in regards to how delinquent properties are handled.
County clerk Rick Piepho called for a resolution from the commission to address a lack of clarity in regards to how participation in revitalization programs—which allow tax rebates for a certain monetary amount of improvements done to a property—is handled once owners accrue delinquent taxes on their property.
As Piepho understands it from the county's perspective, houses with delinquent taxes are supposed to be removed from the local neighborhood revitalization programs, but it hasn't been handled that way in the past.
The City of Newton's Neighborhood Revitalization Program officially states that "properties for which taxes or special assessments are delinquent or under appeal or protest are not eligible until such delinquent payments or appeals have been resolved."
Piepho noted there have been cases where owners have paid the delinquent taxes and then been added back into the revitalization program the following year, something with which Piepho and the commissioners took some issue.
"My opinion is that if you're going to take the trouble to sign up for this and you're going to get a rebate on your taxes, you should do your part to participate in the program," Piepho said.
In Part 12 of the Harvey County Neighborhood Revitalization Act Program, Piepho pointed out language like "failure to timely pay" can be open to interpretation, potentially leading to some of the confusion. However, it goes on to state that failure to "timely pay" will ultimately result in removal from the program.
Having clearer rules regarding delinquent taxes was something the commission got on board with quickly, as commissioner Randy Hague suggested that the policy state taxes must be paid and current to maintain a position in the revitalization program.
"Definitely, make it simple where there's no loopholes to argue about," said commission chair Ron Krehbiel.
Originally, Piepho noted the issue presented itself through the yearly state list of revitalization distributions (with refunds on delinquent properties creating some administrative issues in terms of reporting), part of why he called for a resolution from the commission.
Most local communities with NRPs have been notified, Piepho said, with Newton city manager Bob Myers suggesting once property owners get current on delinquent taxes they are allowed back into the program (though Piepho again pointed out the administrative difficulties in that approach).
With city representatives set to meet with the county commission next week to discuss an inter-local agreement for revitalization, the commission suggested Piepho draft a resolution on delinquent properties' exclusion from NRPs to bring before the governing body at next week's meeting.
In other business, the county commission:
Heard from county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber about ongoing training efforts with the new financial software system. He noted checks will be run through the new system next week and weekly training will continue with other county departments from now through midsummer.
Learned of discussions being held with the city of North Newton about the ownership of a stretch of road on NW 36th St.
Was notified there is an individual interested in purchasing a piece of land currently owned by the county that was a part of a former tax foreclosure sale.
Approved Resolution 2017-6 on emergency preparedness and collaboration among the county.
Discussed getting a multiyear contract together for the Trapper's Rendezvous held annually at Harvey County West Park. Swartzendruber noted talks are ongoing with Boy Scout leadership to work something out with a flat fee structure. In the meantime, Boy Scout representatives asked if the county would be willing to refund some costs following this year's weather-influenced lower attendance, as the contract currently charges per individual registered. The commission approved a total reimbursement of $2,809 ($1 per camper unable to attend) for the Boy Scouts.
Approved the reappointments of Ray Penner and Mindy Budde to the Harvey County Economic Development Council.
Heard a report on data usage by Reno County on the Harvey County 800 MHZ radio system through the wildfires. Communications Director Don Gruver noted in an annual report for 2016 that Reno County uses 30 percent of the system resources on average (leading to five busy signals per month), while during the recent wildfires Reno used 41 percent of the resources from March 3 through 9. and the system experienced 800 busy signals the Sunday of the wildfire.
Learned of an upcoming meeting of the active shooter focus group on April 19 to transition to the outcome phase (to test situations) from Emergency Management Director Gary Denny, who also reminded commissioners of continued fire danger and noted some upcoming days on which no permits for controlled bans will given.
Discussed how to handle to matter of the potentially vacated stretch of road at SW 84th St. and officially registering it with the county, either through a dedication deed or an affidavit, to clear up any legal issues on the county's part.
Was informed of work done by the south central metro region last week by Health Department Director Lynnette Redington, who noted the group is formalizing call signs and sharing them across the region (to utilize in times of emergency).
Learned that registration for the upcoming special election will close at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday) and early voting will begin next week.
Approved a bid from Unruh Mowing for mowing the county parks at a total of $3,100 (for all three parks) per cycle, with a maximum of 12; it was the lowest of four bids received. Miller noted the Parks Department had discussed handling the task in-house, but he recommended accepting the bid as it was lower than the department's estimated yearly cost.