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Board of Commissioners approve county ditch loans, levies for 2012

MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved $90,000 in loans to County Ditch 1 and $83,000 in loan paybacks from to the general fund from five other ditch systems at their final meeting last Friday.

The board also approved the 2012 ditch levy requests, which included increases on 19 of the 30 ditch systems, for a total levy of $206,750. The 2011 ditch levy requests totaled $131,500.

County Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese told the board that the fund for County Ditch 1 is in deficit about $90,000 because of a cleaning and repair project the county completed this year. By increasing the ditch levy from $5,000 in 2011 to $30,000 in 2012, Wiese and Giese thought the residents on that system would be able to pay back the loan over three years.

This year, the county spent time cleaning and leveling about 10 miles of the system after a petition from landowners who use the ditch. To finish the project, Giese said there would still be some seeding and clean-up work, but that the assessment would cover the cost. "There's more work we could do, but there doesn't seem to be any interest in additional work," said Giese.

Five ditch systems were able to pay back loans to the county - $13,000 from County Ditch 4, $25,000 from County Ditch 15, $20,000 from County Ditch 43, $15,000 from Joint Ditch 2, and $10,000 from Joint Ditch 9. After these payments, the county will be down to loans in only four systems.

The board also approved the 2012 ditch levies, a total of $206,750 from the various systems. The levies were first put together by a committee that consists of Giese, Wiese, and commissioners Phil Gausman and Ron Staples.

At Friday's meeting, Giese pointed out three other ditches he thought should have a higher assessment than the first proposal - County Ditches 5, 10 and 16.

Giese suggested an increase from $2,500 to $5,000 to cover work in County Ditch 5 for next year; an increase from $3,000 to $10,000 for work in County Ditch 10; and an increase from $3,000 to $10,000 in County Ditch 16.

Giese told the board County Ditch 16 is going to have an "enormous" bill coming soon because of work that needs to be done, and, in Giese's opinion, the necessity for a predetermination of benefits on that ditch system. The increased levy would offer some "seed money" to pay for improvements and the redetermination.

"Over some period of time, these particular farmers benefitting from this system are facing a pretty large assessment over the next 10 years, if they do the work," said Giese. "It's going to be substantial."