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State, counties settle with Alliance Pipeline

MORRIS – Stevens County has agreed to refund nearly $77,000 in taxes to Alliance Pipeline as a result of a settlement negotiated with the company by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

Alliance Pipeline filed a suit against the state of Minnesota and 13 counties, including Stevens County, contesting property taxes from 2009 through 2012. The property for utilities is assessed by the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota’s attorney general represented the Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue and the affected counties in the suit, and has been negotiating with Alliance Pipeline for several years, said Stevens County Attorney Aaron Jordan.

According to the settlement, Alliance Pipeline will be repaid $236,948 in tax dollars generated in Stevens County. Of that amount, $82,276 will be paid by the state and $76,970 will be paid by the county.

The remaining $77,702 will be paid for by Moore, Darnen, Scott, Pepperton, Everglade, Horton, and ElDorado Townships, the Morris Area, Chokio-Alberta , Hancock and Herman-Norcross school districts, and the Stevens County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

At a work session on Wednesday, April 9, representatives from the affected municipalities agreed that it doesn’t make financial sense for the county to litigate the dispute, Jordan said.

On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved the settlement. If the county chose to reject the settlement, it would be on its own to litigate the dispute. The state of Minnesota has indicated that it will be approving the settlement.

Going forward, Jordan said the affected entities will be working to get some legislative help in easing the burden that multi-year, high-cost tax suits can cause.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to completely eradicate taxpayers’ right to challenge taxes, but this is the second time where we’ve had a multi-year settlement that comes back with a huge dollar amount that the county, the state and these townships and school districts have to pay back in one big chunk with interest,” said Jordan.

Other business

  • The board scheduled a second reading on proposed changes to the county’s sewage treatment ordinance for Tuesday, May 6 at 9:05 a.m.
  • The board scheduled a hearing for a petition for outlet into County Ditch 1 for Tuesday, May 20 at 10 a.m.
  • Visitors going past the lobby of Stevens County Human Services will need to show a photo ID and sign a visitors log as part of new regulations from the federal government. The new requirements were put in place after a review of how some counties protect federal tax and social security information, Director Joanie Murphy said
  • The board approved hiring Shanda Anderson as a child support worker in Stevens County Human Services. The board also approved contracting with a child support officer in Grant County to help with Anderson’s training.

Tom Cherveny of the Forum News Service contributed to the section of this story on the Alliance Pipeline settlement.