Nobles County Commissioners approve tax abatement, ok county identity request for proposal

WORTHINGTON – The Nobles County Commissioners Tuesday approved a tax abatement agreement between the county and Ferrera Candy Company, which states that for a period of three years, property taxes assessed to the company will be refunded after proof that certain conditions are met.

According to the agreement, AGCO will utilize the vacant building in Round Lake, immediately creating 20 new full-time jobs and adding at least 30 new full-time jobs within the first 12 months of the signing of the document. The 20 new jobs created at first must have a starting wage of no less than $12 per hour.

The taxes will be paid every six months beginning in the 2014 tax year, and when AGCO reports the number of jobs and the wages for those employed each period, the taxes will be refunded through the 2016 tax year.

The commissioners also approved a request for proposals for the development of a county government identity. According to the commissioner briefing, the proposal should address ways to let citizens know what the county can do for them, what responsibilities they have to state and federal government and how tax dollars collected are managed.

The county is talking with firms who specialize in media presentation, can develop a better website and additional communication tools. The request asks that the consultant develop a proposal that can be phased in sections, with costs associated with each, along with additional services that would create an identity, improve communication and promote a positive image of Nobles County.

As Board Chair Marv Zylstra brought the request for a proposal to the attention of the other commissioners, Sheriff Kent Wilkening asked if he could make some comments. He told the board he had shown the RFP to other department heads and some county residents and the response was less than enthusiastic.

“I would caution the board, from what I was hearing from these people, about spending money on a firm to do a publicity campaign to improve your image,” Wilkening said. “The image of the county wasn’t hurt by the employees or the department heads - we all know the history.”

Wilkening said when he first started at in Nobles County, his salary as a deputy, along with other employees, was printed in a financial report each year.

“That’s what people want to know – that’s transparency,” Wilkening explained. “The people that I talked to, when they looked at it, said, ‘You know, there may just be better ways to spend the money.’”

Administrator Tom Johnson image was a small piece of the proposal.

“Were in a really, really diverse community where there’s many people who don’t have a clue what the county does,” Johnson said.

The board decided to make small changes in the request to clarify before sending it out.

The commissioners also recognized the March Excellence in Performance award winner, children’s librarian Jackie VanHorsen, and listened to an informational presentation by the SW Minnesota Private Industry Council. Two conditional use permits and a zoning request were approved, as was the 2013 Highway Department annual report.

Several interpreter contracts were approved at $20 per hour, as was a Department of Human Services agreement for education-only tobacco compliance checks.

A discussion regarding county ditch redetermination of benefits took place, which ended with the commissioners opting to bring in someone more versed in such matters.

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