Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 23, 2017

Supervisors await appraisal on county land

By NICOLE HESTER-WILLIAMS Ledger staff writer | Sep 23, 2016

“We’re in the supervisors business — we’re not in the farming business,” Jefferson County Supervisor Dick Reed said during an interview today about a portion of land the county owns.

Monday, Reed along with supervisor Lee Dimmitt — supervisor Becky Schmitz was absent — decided to table a discussion about moving forward with the process of selling the 106 acres of county-owned land on 250th Street, until after receiving the results of an appraisal currently in progress.

“I grew up on a farm, but farming is different now than it was 50 years ago,” Reed said, explaining that the land should be sold to someone who would better manage it.

The land is currently under a lease until Sept. 30. The county purchased the land decades ago in order to erect a county home. Reed said in the 1970s, the county built a new home that helped indigent, mentally or physically challenged individuals who had no place to go.

“The county home for any town was very important. [During] the mid 1900s, this home gave people a place to live and work and something to feel good about; they were taking care of cattle, gardening and raising a farm — this gave them a purpose in life,” Reed said. “This was their permanent home, and a lot of them lived there until they died.” “The county funded the home for those with no place to go; they didn’t have a home,” he continued.  “There wasn’t a welfare system like there is today.”

Reed said the county eventually sold the home.

“Towards the end of the county home’s usability, we only had five people living there that had Jefferson County papers. We were able to put those five people in nursing homes or other facilities that they were happy at; and it was more efficient for the county,” he said.

The county sold the home to the Porter family several years ago, however, it still owns 106 acres of the land.

“We sold off the county home and then subsequently sold off some other pieces of ground,” Dimmitt said.

Although Reed said he’s open to public opinion on the matter, he still feels that a farmer would know better how to take care of the land.

“Farming is a business, and taking care of the land is a huge part of a farmer’s business. Furthermore, I just think somebody in the business would be a better caretaker of the land than the board of supervisors,” Reed said.

“As soon as we get the appraisal back, we will sit down and discuss it. Then we will set a resolution for the public hearing if we decide to move forward,” Dimmitt said today. “If we decide to move forward, after the hearing, we will determine the process that it needs to go through, either auction or bid.”

Dimmitt said in the past, the county has done sealed bids, but that it might be beneficial to the county for the land to go to public auction. Dimmitt said the supervisors would likely set a reserve amount, which would need to be achieved.

“Dick has talked a lot about an auction, and that might be the best way to go,” Dimmitt said.

Although the land is currently being leased, Dimmitt said the law ensures the right of anyone to be able to vie for the property.

“Everyone would have an equal opportunity to purchase it,” he said, adding that the supervisors were not certain about how much the land might be appraised for.

“A lot of factors play into it; also, what it appraises for is not necessarily what it might bring in,” he said, explaining that the appraised value is likely what the county would set the reserve amount at.

“The bottom line is there was a purpose for the land, and now there’s not a reason for us to own the land. We did get rent money off of it and paid taxes on it, but we can put in the hands of a farmer and let him pay taxes,” Reed said. We’re still in the research part of it, we’re still listening to people’s pros and cons about whether we should sell it or not; but it looks to me like we’ll sell it, which is probably the best thing, but I’m still listening.” Reed said.

Dimmitt expressed similar sentiments, commenting that the he understands that some residents think the county should hold on to the land for a “rainy day.”

“That land isn’t going to be worth much in that rainy day — that’s why it’s a rainy day,” Dimmitt said. “We’ve gotten a significant amount off the leasing of it, but maintenance is going up. We need to put lime on the field and there’s tile maintenance. If a lessee had to do that, it’s going to cost them more money, and we would have to go down on the lease. This might be a good time to take a look at it and see what it brings.”

Dimmitt said the county would be able to put the money from the sale of the land to good use.

“For me personally, there are one of two options, both are basically infrastructure. We can take that money and apply it to the debt bond that we just created for Osage Avenue, we could us the money for bridges or road work … When we use federal dollars, we have to have a 20 percent match, so personally, I’d like to see it invested in infrastructure,” Dimmitt said.

Reed agreed.

“Money is always hard to find for special projects and we’ve got a lot of special projects out here — from roads to bridges, culverts, sidewalks — I could give you a list a mile long,” he said. “The board would have to sit down and prioritize the best place to use it, because it would be one time money, but I’m sure everyone who drives down a road that has bumps in it would like to see us use it for our roads.”

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