HIPAA Law, dishonesty, impending COW meeting filter into Pine Co. Board discussion
by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
The Pine County Board has been teleconferencing its meetings from the North Pine Government Center (NPGC) for the past year because of COVID restrictions.
Meeting in person and whether masks should continue to be worn was brought up in discussion at the April 20, 2021, board meeting.
Chairman Steve Hallan said he didn’t mind having meetings like those that have been held for the last year - teleconferenced. He prefers everyone sit in front of a computer because it’s easier to hear.
Poor acoustics in the new NPGC and have been a continual issue. Wearing masks has only compounded the problem.
Hallan said he was disappointed in the county’s COVID statistics with only 36 percent of residents having been vaccinated.
“I think we need to up our game,” he said.
Samantha Lo, who works at Pine County Health and Human Services and gives the board COVID statistics and updates, said she strongly advocates that everyone wear masks.
Hallan asked if that would change if everyone was vaccinated.
Lo said she wished the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was better about explaining it. She said if you’re fully vaccinated and everyone around you is vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask.
Only two board members at a time have been present at the government center for board meetings with a limit of 10 total people at the meetings, due to COVID restrictions. The other members have attended by teleconference.
Hallan suggested all board members meet for a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting and everyone could wear masks.
Commissioner Terry Lovgren commented that she didn’t think they had the right, under the HIPAA Law which protects health information, to ask if anyone is fully vaccinated.
Lovgren, Commissioner JJ Waldhelm and Commissioner Matt Ludwig were at the meeting. All said they would be comfortable meeting in person.
Hallan said it’s not that he’s uncomfortable meeting in person. He said he relies on lip-reading.
Hallan instituted COW meetings several years ago. The board uses them for discussions that can become lengthy.
Three high profile topics were discussed as agenda items when they schedule the next COW meeting. They are the current transit sales tax which was approved by the board and went into effect three years ago; broadband, which is currently being addressed by a panel of county residents and three commissioners, and; amending the language of the board’s resolution supporting the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
County Administrator David Minke told the board they can make legal decisions for any item on the agenda in special COW meetings.
Transit tax, which is a county tax placed on goods and services, was approved to fund road projects in the county. A list of the road projects it would fund was required. They totaled approximately $8 million. The tax would end when the county collected the cost of the road projects listed or in 10 years, which ever came first.
County Engineer Mark LeBrun had reported to the board, previously, the county was collecting more than $1 million a year from the tax.
Minke told the board at the April 20 meeting that transit tax collections are ahead of schedule and they expect to finish the collecting in 2024. He said this was important because LeBrun, who would like the transit tax extended, has a 5-year plan.
Minke mentioned the tax could be used for other projects.
Ludwig asked if there would be the same requirements if the tax were to be extended such as a public hearing, determining a threshold and notice of plans for its use.
Waldhelm asked if the tax was a half percent which Minke confirmed adding he was 90 percent sure it was a fixed percent.
Ludwig said he remembered the original discussion on the transit tax and they agreed there would be an end, a sunset.
He said if the board were to do the tax again he would want it to be a separate tax.
“It’s like we’re being dishonest,” Ludwig said.
Hallan said, “We got to the $8 million early, ” adding that the board needed a plan to fund roads. If they didn’t make one, he said they would have to increase the levy 6 percent to cover the roads.
Hallan cut the conversation off and said they would have the discussion at the COW meeting.
On a 4-1 vote, Pine county Commissioners approve sending deputies to assist Minneapois during the Chauvin trial
by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Pine County Board entered into a formal agreement, with the city of Minneapolis, to provide deputies for the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin is one of four Minneapolis police officers charged with the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death triggered riots, arson and looting over several days in the Twin Cities.
The mutual aid agreement for law enforcement services was approved by a 4-1 vote at the board’s regular meeting, Feb. 16, 2021. Commissioners Josh Mohr, Terry Lovgren, Matt Ludwig and Steve Hallan voted yes. Commissioner JJ Waldhelm voted no.
According to the background information provided by County Administrator David Minke, the agreement can be cancelled at any time and expires Dec. 31, 2021. The three remaining officers charged with aiding and abetting in the death of Floyd will be tried together on August 23, 2021. The agreement will still be active.
There is no specific amount of time commitment and mutual aid defined in the agreement. It would be at the discretion of Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson, who would consider the availability of deputies and the existing conditions.
PiCK News reporter Ailene Croup attended the board meeting virtually and spoke during the public comment section.
She expressed concern about the safety of the deputies and the liability of Pine County in the event of an incident perceived to be similar to the May 25, 2020, incident.
Croup also asked how the sheriff’s department would cover the county’s law enforcement needs if deputies left to cover Minneapolis. She also wanted to know who would pay for the wages of the deputies. Croup also mentioned the calls for defunding the police supported by Minneapolis City Council and putting the county’s deputies in that negative situation.
Sheriff Nelson told the board his department had responded previously without an agreement and said deputies were “down there” during the initial unrest.
He said he understood the politics and didn’t want that to get in the way, or hold that against them. Nelson added it would be wrong to withhold help.
“It’s a public safety issue…It’s responding sheriff to sheriff,” he said.
Commissioner Waldhelm asked if Minnesota State Troopers would be involved in supporting the Minneapolis Police Department for the trial.
“Would the governor be able to help out with the National Guard or troopers and leave counties like us out of it?” he asked.
Sheriff Nelson said, “All of those assets are in the discussion… It’s a matter of all hands on deck. It’s the way things should be.”
Commissioner Mohr asked if the sheriff could withhold aid if he didn’t agree with it?
Sheriff Nelson said there was nothing “set in stone.”
Commissioner Lovgren thanked Nelson for his explanation.
Commissioner Ludwig, a retired Pine County Deputy and Investigator, said Minneapolis has sent mutual aid to Pine County and it has also been provided by other counties for water rescue and body searches.
PiCK News interviewed Ludwig by phone. He expanded on his reasons for supporting mutual aid for Minneapolis. There is a critical need for mutual aid, he said, in counties that don’t have the manpower or resources for things like water rescue and bomb squads. There is a need to support law enforcement, politics aside.
Ludwig’s vote is based on his knowledge of the use of mutual aid in the county and knowing the deputies will only be used if the sheriff deems the situation necessary.
In order to request reimbursement for “...reasonable eligible costs incurred as a result of a qualifying emergency” from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the language in the mutual aid agreement states there must be a valid written agreement.
Pine County Board gets face lift with two new commissioners
by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
The first regular meeting of 2021 for Pine County Board of Commissioners was held at Courthouse boardroom. Regular meetings have been held at North Pine Government Center in Sandstone since March of 2020. With COVID restrictions, imposed by Governor Walz, it has been easier to meet in Sandstone and take advantage of the teleconferencing options of the new building.
Two new commissioners took their places at the table.
In the November general election, Terry Lovgren won the District Three Commissioner’s seat long held by Steve Chaffee.
JJ Waldhelm, of Sturgeon Lake, is the second commissioner to capture an incumbent’s seat when he won the District Four position previously held by John Mikrot, Jr.
The first meeting of the year has traditionally been a reorganizational meeting.
It began with a motion from Commissioner Matt Ludwig to keep the officers in place for 2021. That would be Steve Hallan, District One, as chairman and Josh Mohr, District Two, as vice-chair.
Hallan said he would mail the committee assignments to the commissioners rather than decide at the reorganizational meeting.
Commissioner Matt Ludwig, District Five, said he would like to have the option of evening board meetings to accommodate county residents who work during the day.
Hallan said that was possible but added, “It hasn’t worked for our county in the past.”
Mohr asked if evening meeting would be monthly or occasionally.
“A couple a year,” Hallan replied, adding one would be in Sandstone and one in Pine City.
Auditor Treasurer Kelly Schroeder reported on a property which received a subsidized cleanup loan of $28,500. She said the property “was a mess” and showed before photos of the property prior to the cleanup. There is “not a speck of junk on that property.”
Schroeder asked the board to approve Resolution 2021-02 which extends a special assessment on the property for the cleanup amount to be repaid over 20 years at 0 interest. The board unanimously approved the resolution.
The board approved the legal paper for the county as the Pine City Pioneer and the Pine County Courier as the second legal paper. The bid from North Star Media, which owns all the newspapers in the county, was $8.75 per column inch for legal notices. There were no other bids.
Owner publisher of PiCK News, Ailene Croup, asked the board to submit legal notices to PiCK News at no charge to the county since a good portion of county residents now get there new via their phones or computer.
Hallan said the board would consider it.
Information on the Small Farm Start Up Program was given by University of Minnesota Extension Ag Educator, Rod Greder.
Waldhelm asked about the challenges for start up farmers.
For those farmers who work in the metro area, Greder said, makes the commute a challenge.
Greder also said they want to make people aware of the advantages of living and farming in Pine County.
County Administrator David Minke asked about the capacity, the area and the assets.
Greder pointed out a niche market of organic farming with healthy organic produce and grass-fed beef. “We need to develop a “food hub” and meat processor, he added.
Though the State is operating at a deficit having approved “three buckets” of relief for the state, due to COVID, Minke said the county has received another $568,000 for grants to businesses and for non-profit assistance.
He said the grants are focused on businesses that have suffered significant losses, due to COVID shutdowns.
Minke explained this round of relief grants are for businesses with significant loss of 25 percent or greater, making them the first priority. Those with less than 25 percent loss will be second priority.
Ludwig asked if they would be using the previous method of identifying those businesses.
The Initiative Foundation has a record of those who already applied. Minke reported, determining factors include loss of revenue, eligible expenses, taxes, mortgage, rent and wages for self-employed. For the self-employed, the would have to show a record that they’ve paid themselves in the past.
Of the approximately $4 million received by the county from the State and returns from the townships and cities in the county, $1.2 million has been awarded to local businesses.
In other business:
- Janet Schumacher was recognized for 50 years of service to the county
- Paul Swanson was acknowledged as the interim Soil and Water District Manager.
- The board held its annual Railroad Authority meeting. It was established the county still owns a portion of tracks along Highway 23.
- Samantha Lo gave an update on COVID-19.
- The board approved labor agreements with Pine County Deputies.
Drivers face long drives, long lines to get MN licenses
by Theresa Dawson for PiCK News
Any driver from the Hinckley or Sandstone area looking to take the written exam or driver’s test may face as much as an 80-mile drive or more to find a testing facility.
“We don’t do driver’s exams here. You will have to go to St. Cloud, Duluth or Arden Hills,” may be heard or posted at the local offices. Because of COVID-19, long lines and possible long drives can be expected.
As usual there will be a host of documentation necessary based on your licensing needs. It is best to consult the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) site when considering what documentation to take. There is even a preregistration which can help to make your processing smoother. https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/Pages/default.aspx
It also may be wise to call your local DMV to inquire exactly what services they provide.
Waiting in line for an hour or more at the Midtown Square site in St. Cloud may be expected.
Gerriann Kolles from Buffalo, Minn., recently visited the Midtown Square site with her son who needed to take his driver’s exam. They were in line for an hour and were concerned it could have been longer. She had heard from others they had waited for several hours.
Jane Wells was with her granddaughter who was taking her driver’s exam. She arrived at 6:45 a.m. and was through the line at 8:40 a.m.
At the first desk, the clerk provides a code for Quick Response (QR) which comes back with a text and a number in line. Then there can be an hour wait or more to receive a text saying, “You’re invited.”
There is no waiting room with seats, so most people go to their cars to wait, or find something to do in town. Once the invitation comes, each person who enters the office is required to wear a mask, have their temperature taken and maintain social distancing.
There is a wait to check proper documentation and then a photo will be taken. If documentation is correct, then the test is administered.
If the test is passed, then it is on to the next line and the next wait. However, if any documentation is not accurate or the test is not passed, there will be another day spent traveling long distances with long waiting lines.
To eliminate the extra stress and extra time, it is best to check the DMV site for all documentation needed.
Also, the Minnesota driver’s manual is online.
The test is 40 questions and is daunting if the manual has not been reviewed prior to the test. The manual can also be found on the DMV site. In order to better prepare, there are also practice test sites online.
If registration, title transfer, tags or license renewal are the purpose of the visit, there may be another waiting line. Again, it is best to call your local DMV in order to find out what service they provide.
The average wait time for these services at the Pine City site can be anywhere from 15 minutes to nearly an hour or more depending on the time of day and volume of people. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Pine City site has the line outside – no seats, no protection from the weather and waiting room for only one at a time inside.
The Pine City office has a staff capacity of four at the windows which does facilitate faster processing. The outside wait can be physically stressful, especially if it rains or the temperatures get in the 80s.
Regardless of what is needed at the DMV offices, waiting and social distancing hinder a speedy process. Sending people out of their home territories and into waiting lines, could be considered a questionable practice if the purpose is to “contain” COVID-19.
It seems local testing would be better in order to save taxpayers gas, time and even limit the spread of COVID-19.
Tax assessment boards of appeal may require remote access not available in parts of Pine County
by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Pine County Board, working to conduct its business within the “social distancing guidelines, held a special meeting March 24, 2020 using video- and tele-conferencing tools.
The quality of the video conference portion was mostly unacceptable and at one point the audio was absent from both video and phone for several minutes.
Engineering, social services, assessing, auditor, county attorney, probation, health and human services departments and Commissioner Steve Chaffee reported remotely via video or phone. They praised the efforts of the county’s Information Technology Specialist Ryan Findell who made it possible for them to work from home and outside the boardroom.
Those present at the courthouse for the meeting were Commissioners Matt Ludwig, John Mikrot, Jr., Josh Mohr, Steve Hallan, Administrator David Minke, Office Manager Deborah Grey and Sheriff Jeff Nelson.
Auditor/Treasurer Kelly Schroeder said there are 10 people from her office working remotely from home and the rest of the department is working on rotating shifts to enable distancing.
Schroeder said Pine County’s townships’ and cities’ Boards of Appeal and Equalization (BOAE) need to continue as scheduled. This was her direction from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Those meetings will be held throughout April.
Many of the townships and cities hold their BOAE meetings at their town halls where they have no internet connection making it impossible to teleconference with those residents wanting to appeal their property tax assessment.
She said the only other option is to have an “open book” BOAE. This would push the residents’ appeal off to June when they would make their appeal to the county board.
The way the law reads, currently, once they have an open book appeal, they must also have open book the following year.
Senator Jason Rarick and Representative Nathan Nelson attended the meeting remotely and said they would present these circumstances to the state legislature to see if they could find emergency measures to address the situation and get around the two-year open book requirement.
Rep. Nelson said the possibility of a “shelter in place” order coming from Governor Walz is being reviewed by the legislature to determine who would an essential worker and exempt from the order.
The county closed its offices to walk-in traffic last week and made the closure official by passing a retroactive resolution 2020-23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was in response to Governor Walz’ declaration of a peacetime emergency through Executive Order 20-01.
The board also unanimously approved, by roll call vote, Resolution 2020-24 declaring a local emergency for Pine County. The resolution would allow the county to access funding available under the COVID-19 emergency status.
The board has scheduled another special meeting at the Pine County Courthouse on March 31, 2020, at 10 a.m. Remote access is possible, and residents should contact the county administrator for more information on how to join the meeting remotely.
Teleconferencing becomes new norm for Pine County meetings in wake of COVID-19 outbreak
by Ailene Croup for Pick News
The Tuesday, March 17, Pine County Board meeting, held at North Pine Government Center, in Sandstone, was not business as usual.
COVID-19 made it necessary for the county to follow Gov. Tim Walz’ direction and limit the number of people people in attendance to 50 people or less.
There’s always the potential for larger gatherings at board meetings and several agenda items, including two public hearings and a presentation/discussion on the Second Amendment which would have made it impossible to guarantee “social distancing.”
Late into Monday, prior to the Tuesday, March 17, 2020 regular meeting, the agenda was pared down to continue doing necessary county business but to eliminate unnecessary public contact and the possibility of transmission of COVID-19.
Present at the meeting were Chairman Steve Hallan, Commissioners Matt Ludwig and John Mikrot, Jr., County Administrator David Minke, County Attorney Reese Fredrickson, Sheriff Jeff Nelson, Health and Human Services Director Becky Foss, Administrative Secretary Deb Gray and Denise Baran (emergency management).
Attending remotely by phone were Commissioners Steve Chaffee and Josh Mohr, Land and Soil Manager Caleb Anderson, Auditor/Treasurer Kelly Schroeder and PiCK News’ Ailene Croup.
Resolution 2020-22 was unanimously approved. It authorized temporary closure of county facilities to walk-in traffic, until further notice, except at the Pine County Courthouse, in Pine City.
To accommodate those attending the meeting through teleconferencing (by phone), all motions were done by roll call. Each commissioner was called on by district to cast their vote.
One item that remained on the agenda was a resolution supporting giving taxing authority, as a pilot project, to the SWCD.
Legislation is being considered to give Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) levy authority. The resolution of support is for the pilot program testing the levying authority in two counties, Pine and Carlton.
Administrator Minke said the taxing body (SWCD) could use the levy for any legal purpose.
Chairman Hallan said SWCD members are elected officials but do not control the amount of money they receive through the county’s levy. If approved, this legislation would give those elected Soil and Water Supervisory Board the authority to levy what they need to carry out the duties outlined by Minnesota State Statute.
The motion to approve the resolution of support, for the 3-year pilot project, was unanimously approved by a roll call vote.
In other business:
- Ludwig reported on the recommendations by the personnel committee.
- Cancelled were the special Special Committee of the Whole meeting, with Windemere Town Hall as the possible location, planned for April 28, 2020 and the Special Committee of the Whole meeting for Local Government Officials, planned for the evening of April 28, 2020.
- Schroeder reported the resolution approving application for a Department of Natural Resources Trail Grant will be postponed until 2021.
- Caleb Anderson received approval of Resolution 2020-21 from the board which will commit Pine County to be a host site for Minnesota GreenCorps. The county would be required to provide space for the person assigned to the post along with transportation and a computer.
- Hallan gave an East Central Solid Waste Commission (ECSWC) report revealing a new direction for ECSWC. They will be hauling trash with their own trucks from the drop off site in Cambridge. The contracted haulers don’t always take all the trash out on Fridays forcing ECSWC to minimize the fire hazard by cleaning out and hauling and no longer contracting the service.
- Hallan said he had attend Broadband Day at the Capitol and he expected the COVID-19 shutdown of schools, and the inability of some students to submit their work by internet, will have lead to a buildout of broadband.
At the end of the meeting, with input from PiCK News about the necessity of County Recorder services for townships, Hallan said there would need to be “more dire straights” before the county would shutdown services provided at the courthouse. He did not rule out the possibility but also said he expected the next regularly scheduled county board meeting to take place much as this one had with their intent to improve the teleconferencing quality.
Minke said those public hearings that did not take place will be reposted, published and rescheduled when gathering restrictions are back to normal.
He encouraged residents to call ahead when they have business with the county to be sure the business can be completed.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is April 7, 2020, at the Pine county Courthouse, 10 a.m.
Pine County Townships push back over cost, overreach of county controlled assessing
by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
The threat of the largest one-day November snowfall in nearly two decades did not stop 40 Pine County Township officers, supervisors and assessors from filling the North Pine Government Center, two days before Thanksgiving,
They had received a notice, on Nov. 6, 2019, the Pine County Board of Commissioners would be holding a special meeting on Nov. 26, 2019, for the purpose of “exploring the implementation of a true county assessing system.”
Pine County Assessor-Recorder Lorri Houtsma said, true county assessing would have to be implemented by Dec. 31, 2019, for the county to begin assessing in October 2020 or they would have to wait another year.
PiCK News reporter asked why townships were not notified earlier of this move since Houtsma and Commissioner Steve Hallan had both spoken October 26, 2019 at the Pine County Township Association meeting, where they gave updates on county news. That meeting was two days prior to the county’s special meeting where true county assessing and the county board agreed to the Nov. 26, 2019 special assessment meeting.
The county board had another chance to tell townships of their intent to take over assessing a day after the special meeting when they met at the Nov. 29, 2019 bi-yearly local government meeting, hosted by the county board.
Chairman Josh Mohr said the board didn’t learn about the Houtsma’s request until the Oct. 26, 2019 special meeting.
In a rare move, at the May 7, 2019 regular county board meeting, Chairman Josh Mohr had a consent agenda item moved to the regular agenda. The item that was moved was approval of the 2020-2022 assessment contracts. Those are the contracts with the townships and the cities for which the county already does assessing.
When that item was addressed in the regular agenda Auditor-Treasurer Kelly Schroeder gave a powerpoint presentation about why the county should take over all assessing in Pine County. There was no mention of this in the consent agenda item.
Schroeder told the board that, according to state statute the county can take over all the assessing.
Schroeder said, at the May meeting, if the county took over all the assessing, which they call true county assessing, it would cost the taxpayers an additional $283,000.
Currently, three local assessors contract with about half of the county’s 33 townships to do their assessing and the county assessor does the other half.
On Nov. 26, 2019, Houtsma and Schroeder gave these reasons for wanting to take over all assessing.
- They didn’t have enough time to get tax statements out with the deadline of work from local assessors being February 1.
- They also stated they didn’t get enough money from the $1.50 per parcel charge to the townships for the parcels they do not assess.
- Local assessors make mistakes and are not always going out measuring properties.
- Local assessors are not going to get the training they need for the new state required accreditation. The accreditation is required by July 1, 2022.
- And, the local assessors are using off duty Chisago County assessors to help with their assessing.
No evidence was presented of the county’s takeover of assessing being a money saving move for taxpayers whose townships contract with local assessors.
Houtsma said of the three local assessors, she did not know of any who would be taking the updated training to get accredited which would be required by the state in 2022. She said the locally assessed properties weren’t paying their fair share because of improperly assessed parcels.
She informed the board they would need to hire two new assessors in the county office to perform the duties and their salaries would be more than $134,000. They may not be accredited either but the county would get them trained, she said.
One township officer asked if the county could provide training for the local assessors because the county taxpayers would be paying for the county assessors’ training, why not pay for the local assessors classes and the townships could continue with their local assessors.
One local assessor, Bob Brewster, said the classes were quite expensive.
Brewster said there are just as many errors coming from inside the county assessing department as outside. He said whether local or county assessor “We all do our work out of the same manual.”
Several township officers asked about Houtsma’s complaint that local assessors are not correctly assessing properties.
Yearly, at each Board of Appeal and Equalization (BOA) meeting held in the locally assessed townships, the local assessor, a county assessor and the township board are present. Residents of the townships can appeal their assessments at that time.
Township officials asked why they were never told at the BOA meetings that their local assessors weren’t accurately evaluating properties. Local assessors are contracted for the work they do. Brewster said the town boards are his employers.
Arlone Township Clerk Sue Wieczorek asked why commissioners aren’t coming to township BOA meetings to see what’s happening.
Sandstone Township resident Morris Carlson said more government means increased taxes.
Barry and Sandstone Township submitted resolutions opposing county assessing.
“Why is the county sticking their nose in every bit of our business. Stay out of our business,” said Dell Grove Township Board Chairman Dan O’Flanagan.
No more mister nice guy: Pine County Commissioners deliver first "no" vote on property tax default/repurchase abuse case
by Ailene Croup for PiCK News
Commissioners reinforced a decision they made in March 2019 about abuse of repurchase on tax forfeited land, at Tuesday’s regular Pine County Board meeting, held at the North Pine Government Center.
If a property goes into tax forfeiture, the owner can request a repurchase contract and pay 10 percent of the taxes due and the remainder over 10 years at 10 percent interest. Some property owners have entered repurchase contracts and then defaulted on the contract. The county has typically allowed them to get another repurchase contract.
In March 2019, Pine County Deputy Auditor Terry Lovgren explained the repeated abuse by several property owners whose forfeiture was due to non-payment of real estate taxes.
Lovgren told the board last week, concerning denial of repurchasing property, “This is not something we take lightly.“
Those who abuse the process have failed to pay off the contract and taxes numerous times and the property goes into tax forfeiture. They request repurchase of the property and the cycle begins again.
The county board agreed, in March, when there is a default on the contract to repurchase, the decision will be brought to the board which has discretion to decide whether repurchase will be allowed.
Pine County Auditor-Treasurer Kelly Schroeder presented the first case to commissioners since their consensus on abuse of repurchase contracts last spring.
The property owner, Bashir Moghul, was present with his attorney at Tuesday’s board meeting. Repurchase of two properties he owns in Pine County were brought before the board.
Both were purchased in 2003 and have had numerous repurchase contracts and failures to pay those contracts and new taxes over the past 16 years.
Moghul’s attorney, Chelsea Troth, pled his case for repurchase to the board calling Moghul a hard-working man who has already submitted a check to the county to pay the delinquent taxes. She said he was present, ready and willing to pay for the property. She said it was unfair to lose the property because of one year of taxes and it was in the public interest to put the properties back on the tax rolls. She added that Moghul was moving forward with the eviction process for those living in the properties.
Over the past eight years, Pine County Sheriff’s Deputies have been called to the two properties 85 times including calls reporting criminal activity such as warrants on drug possession, counterfeiting of currency and theft.
The board requested, in March, that sufficient background information be provided to them so they could make an informed decision on any repurchase.
State Statute 282.241 authorizes the board to deny or approve the request for repurchase while taking into account whether an undue hardship or injustice would be created by denying the repurchase.
Moghul’s properties had their repurchase contracts cancelled on July 15, 2019.
Schroeder said the staff’s recommendation is, “Denying the repurchase request because it will not serve the public interest and there is no undue hardship or injustice to remedy.”
Pine County Attorney Reese Fredrickson referenced Moghul’s court history and the county’s law enforcement resources being used to serve warrants and investigate complaints.
Pick News researched Moghul and found 57 criminal/traffic petty case records beginning back in 1996, in multiple counties including Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey and Isanti County. Also discovered were 93 cases under Civil, Family and Probate Case Records in Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Scott and Pine County beginning in 1995 with a personal injury case.
Commissioners commented on the case, with Chairman Josh Mohr stating that contracts had been abused and the standard is the public interest and undue hardship.
Commissioner Steve Chaffee said the county goes through the repurchase process and then again in four years when the property owner doesn’t pay, they start all over.
Mohr made a motion to deny Moghul’s repurchase which was seconded and unanimously approved 5-0.