Commissioners say no to wheelage tax for 2014

MARSHALL – Lyon County Commissioners revisited the idea of collecting a county wheelage tax on Tuesday, but they didn’t seem to be any more enthusiastic about implementing it, at least for next year. The commissioners’ consensus was to do more research and gather more public input, with the possibility of collecting a tax in 2015.

Interim County Engineer Aaron VanMoer asked commissioners for direction on the wheelage tax during their regular meeting. New state laws passed this year would allow counties to collect a wheelage tax of up to $10 per registered vehicle and use the money for highway projects. In Lyon County, a wheelage tax could bring in more than $200,000 in revenue in 2014.

If Lyon County wanted to implement the tax in 2014, it would need to act by Aug. 1, VanMoer said.

Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said several area counties have already said “no” to a wheelage tax, including Rock, Pipestone, and Redwood counties. Cottonwood County has approved a wheelage tax, he said.

“I’ll go out on a limb and propose that we postpone a decision until 2015,” Stomberg said. That would allow extra time for the county to have public hearings, as well as to come up with a specific plan on what projects a wheelage tax would be used to pay for.

“I’m not in favor of moving forward today,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow. Sanow said he had received a lot of negative feedback from the public on the possibility of a wheelage tax.

Commissioner Rodney Stensrud said he had received both positive and negative feedback on the idea. However, he said county highways could benefit from the funding a wheelage tax would generate.

“One way or another, we’ve got to keep things in shape,” he said.

“It’s still important that we have at least two to four public hearings” on the matter, said Commissioner Steve Ritter.

Commissioners directed county staff to do a more thorough investigation on what a wheelage tax could be used for, with the intent of holding public meetings next spring. Ritter suggested that taxpayers get a chance to discuss the matter at the annual township association meeting, too.

In other business Tuesday, Stomberg said commissioners needed to start thinking about the county budget process for 2014. The state has placed levy limits, which will affect the county, he said. The county has not raised its levy since 2008. However, Stomberg said there are some changes that may not make it feasible to keep a zero increase for 2014. He said the county has updated its pay scales and is facing some large infrastructure projects.

Commissioners set a special session to discuss the 2014 budget at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 30.

Lyon County Environmental Administrator Paul Henriksen and Randall Sippell of the engineering firm SAIC gave commissioners updates on the Lyon County landfill. Sippell said the landfill is currently going through the permit renewal process and is also looking at expanding. If landfill operations continue at the same rate as today, Sippell said, the current landfill cell will fill up in 2015. The landfill will need to build a new addition west of the current cell, he said.

As part of the process of getting ready to expand, Sippell said the landfill will need to do some drilling and research on the ground and water in the area. He provided commissioners with four quotes for the drilling and sampling process. The low quote came from Aqua Plus, Inc., at about $12,800. Sippell said Aqua Plus had worked with the landfill before, so the company also had the advantage of being familiar with the area. Commissioners voted to accept the quote.

Sippell also told commissioners that SAIC will be undergoing some changes. The company will be splitting into two different companies, one focused on government contracts and the other on commercial clients. The company that works with the landfill will be named Leidos, he said. The change means the county will need to update its contract with SAIC.

County Facilities Manager Ron Krause updated the board on roofing concerns at the Lyon County Historical Museum building in Marshall and asked for direction on how to proceed. Krause said during recent rains, the museum had been experiencing some leaks. He said the roof damage could be traced back to leaks in the chiller on the building’s roof but fixing the chiller would mean taking out the whole rooftop compressor. Krause said the general condition of the roof is also a consideration.

“This roof is 27 years old,” Krause said. “It’s something the board needs to think about.” He said the board may also want to think about whether the county would want to pursue fixing the museum’s current compressor or updating the HVAC system.

County board Chairman Rick Anderson asked Krause to get ballpark figures for the repairs, and commissioners could take it into account during the upcoming budget process.

Commissioners voted to approve a change in the law enforcement contract between the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department and the city of Lynd. Sheriff Mark Mather said the city had requested a reduction in patrol hours for the rest of the year, because of financial constraints. Mather said with the “Juice Bar” in Lynd closed, there have also been fewer calls for the sheriff’s department.

The amended law enforcement contract would give Lynd 20 patrol hours per week until the end of the year, at a rate of about $40 per hour. The city’s original contract for 2013 called for 30 patrol hours per week. Mather said 20 patrol hours a week would be an amount comparable to what other cities Lynd’s size get.