Published On: Wed, Feb 20th, 2013

Cedar County officials say little can be done to stop federal project

HARTINGTON — The federal government is ignoring local residents, when it comes to the ongoing development of the Audubon Bend land.

Allen Heine, St. Helena, shared his thoughts on the project with County Commissioners at their Feb. 12 meeting.

His biggest concerns were with how the purchase and development has, and will, affect Cedar County.

“My biggest concern is, okay, they got this project, but there doesn’t, for the most part, seem to be any benefits to the Wynot area and for the most part, the whole Cedar County area, the way that the development they are talking about is going,” he said.

Heine attended the meeting last month where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gathered input on how people would like the 2,372 acre piece of land, which was purchased in 2009 and is located two and a half miles north of Wynot, to be developed.

Corps engineers said potential site uses could include native plantings and their general locations, and potential construction of other restoration uses to provide a natural habitat for native fish and wildlife.

And with no real benefits, according to Heine, losing tax revenue because the property is now owned by the U.S. Government, has become a major concern for many.

According to a handout provided by Heine, Cedar County lost an estimated $225,520 in taxes for 2010, 2011, and 2012.

As for the school districts, they lost an estimated $136,738 in the past three years.

However, the federal government does compensate the county through a Pay In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payment, though it was only $11,777 last year, according to Cedar County Treasurer Carol Wortmann.

“This is minimal compared to what it would have been, but something is better than nothing,” said Cedar County Assessor Don Hoesing.

The county’s compensation of $11,777 is for 3,424 acres, meaning there are other PILT acres in Cedar County besides the Audubon Bend property.

Heine inquired as to whether they can recoup some of the loss of tax money.

 

“The Missouri River Recreation, they send that figure into the Department of Interior, and then the Department of Interior sends the In Lieu of Taxes amount to the county,” said District 1 Commissioner Terry Pinkelman.

“So, if you are going to fight anybody, you would have to fight the Department of Interior.”

Heine also is concerned the county is going to be liable for law enforcement, as well as fire protection, from time to time and it is going to cost taxpayers additionally to do so.

Pinkelman said the choice whether to charge for the services is up to each town’s fire department.

“That is basically up to the fire department to submit a charge, per man, per truck, per hour. And they will bill them,” said Pinkelman.

Most importantly, Heine said he hopes Cedar County residents can have more of a voice in the development of the Audubon Bend land.

The commissioners agreed with Heine about the need to be heard.

“The train has already left the station. It is too late to get on it,” Pinkelman said.

“Now we have to do something that will be beneficial for Cedar County as the train is going down the track.”

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