Lincoln County ended 2012 in the black

IVANHOE?-?The Lincoln County Board received good news from its financial auditor at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Doug Host, a CPA with Clifton, Larson and Allen, presented a summary of the audit exit for 2012. Host praised county employees for their cooperation and having all their records prepared for the audit. He said the net worth of Lincoln County increased $2 million in 2012, reflecting steady increases in the past five years.

According to Host, 83 percent of the county revenues come from taxes, 40 percent, and the remainder, from intergovernmental revenues, mainly federal and state grants for roads and bridges.

The general fund has a more-than-comfortable cushion of almost 10 months expenditures, and in general, the county was under budget for expenditures and over budget for revenues.

The only part of the county finances that showed a negative was the Lake Benton Lake Improvement District.

The board convened a public hearing to consider the request of Vernon Skorczewski for an outlet into Judicial Ditch 19 in Hensonville Township. Several residents whose land drains into the ditch expressed concerns that adding an additional five 40-acre fields to the system would overload the capacity of the ditch during wet seasons.

After discussion that went on far beyond the allotted time, the board voted on the advice of county Environmental Director Robert Olsen to reconvene on Oct. 15 and in the interim to hire an engineer to study the capacity of the outlet. Olsen also recommended residents start the permitting process for improving the ditch by widening or deepening it immediately, as the process takes at minimum three years and often longer.

Olsen offered a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the commissioners.

Lincoln County has had jurisdictional disputes with the federal agency over the issue of cleaning county ditches that cross designated wetlands. The Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter to the county in regards to plans to remove sediment from County Ditch 2 located on the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife Refuge.

Olsen highlighted the sentence. “In the event of a government shutdown, all federal lands will be closed and the County will not be allowed to complete the work on this tract until the government shutdown ends.”

At Olsen’s request, the board unanimously passed a motion to enlist the services of an attorney to prepare a list of comments to the federal Office of Management and Budget, opposing a proposal to expand the definition of “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act.

According to Olsen, the proposed redefinition would greatly expand the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency over water control structures within the counties.

“We may not be able to replace existing tile systems, and some of them are over a hundred years old,” Olsen said. “If one failed, it would create more wetland.”

At Olsen’s request, the board voted to approve new income levels used for determining eligibility for the low income SSTS Grant Program. The program offers low-income families grant assistance to improve septic systems on their property.

At the request of Vince Robinson, executive director of the Lincoln County Enterprise Development Corporation, the board approved a motion to schedule a joint meeting with the Ivanhoe City Council to consider an inter-governmental agreement to set up a Tax Abatement Revenue Pledge Agreement. Robinson said the agreement would assist the owners of four businesses in Ivanhoe that are considering plans for expansion. The meeting is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. on Nov. 5 during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting.