Local property values on the rise

High real estate prices have translated to an increase in property values in Allen County. Valuation notices will be mailed soon, with increases between 8% and 25%.

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February 16, 2022 - 9:48 AM

Register of Deeds Cara Barkdoll hands a proposal to commissioners Jerry Daniels, left, and David Lee. Commissioner Bruce Symes is not pictured. Barkdoll asked commissioners to use federal relief money to help pay to digitize records. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Expect to see property valuation notices in the mail soon. And be prepared for a little sticker shock.

That was the warning from County Appraiser Jami Clark.

Property valuations have increased between 8% and 25% because of higher prices when real estate is sold, she said. Agriculture land prices also are up.

Clark, who asked commissioners to approve more than $5,000 in postage to mail the valuation notices, told commissioners they might get a few phone calls from property owners who aren’t happy about the increase.

She said she has “an open door policy” and is willing to answer questions and talk to anyone who is concerned. 

PILOT spending

Commissioners aren’t sure yet exactly how they’ll spend wind farm money this year, but the Marmaton Valley school district could get a slightly bigger piece of the pie.

An agreement allows the Prairie Queen Wind Farm to remain exempt from property taxes for the first 10 years of its operation. Instead, the wind farm gives the county $250,000 as a “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT). 

Last year, the first year for the PILOT disbursement, the county gave each school district an equal share of $50,000, with another $50,000 to the Regional Rural Technical Center at LaHarpe. The remaining $50,000 went into the county’s coffers. 

Some Moran residents have criticized the disbursement, saying because the wind farm is located on rural Moran properties, they should receive a larger chunk of the PILOT.

Most recently, George Stephens of Moran told commissioners on Jan. 25 that he didn’t think Marmaton Valley got a fair share. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Bruce Symes said he broke down the distribution based on enrollment numbers at each district.

The “per pupil distribution” worked out to be $197 for Marmaton Valley students, $41 for Iola and $78 for Humboldt. 

“With that math, Moran students are getting more than twice what Humboldt is getting and four times what Iola students are receiving,” Symes said.

Commissioner David Lee said he thought the tech center’s disbursement should be lowered or ended, as other districts outside Allen County contribute to that facility.

Chairman Jerry Daniels said he understands the concerns in Moran.

“They do have to look at the windmills,” he said. 

He asked for an estimate of what the Marmaton Valley district would receive if the wind farm had to pay property taxes. That figure is somewhere around $60,000.

He proposed the county give $60,000 to Marmaton Valley and $50,000 each to Iola and Humboldt. He asked Lee to come up with a figure he thinks is fair for the tech center.

Whatever is left would go to the county.

No decision was made.

Communications tower 

Commissioners approved a bid from Hayden Tower Services of Topeka for $875,000 to construct a wireless communications tower near the landfill.

The 500-foot tower is needed to improve radio communications throughout the county, particularly in “dead spots” in the corners. 

At least four departments will be affected: the sheriff’s department, county fire, county EMS and public works.

Sheriff Bryan Murphy first approached the county about the need for the tower four years ago, but its hefty price tag and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed action.

The county has tried and failed to secure grants for the project, and will keep trying. If a grant doesn’t pan out, they’ll use federal coronavirus relief money through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to pay for it.

Georgia Masterson asks commissioners to sign a letter of support for Humanity House as it pursues a grant. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

IN OTHER news:

• Register of Deeds Cara Barkdoll asked commissioners to consider using ARPA money to pay about $32,000 to a software company to help her digitize records and buy a new printer. Her department has the money to pay for it, but it would help if the county could contribute something from ARPA.

• Signed a support letter for Humanity House to apply for a grant to help pay for salaries.

• Approved a bridge project through the Kansas Department of Transportation. KDOT will replace the bridge near 2200 and Nebraska Road (two miles west and one mile south of LaHarpe) at a cost of $289,785. KDOT will pay $150,000, with the county footing $139,785 of the bill.

• Arlyn Briggs, who owns property in Allen County, spoke on a dozen or so issues he is concerned about.

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