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County tells Avera to pay full taxes on future I-90 site

Avera Queen of Peace was denied its request Tuesday to pay a cheaper tax rate on land for a future site of a Mitchell health care center.

Meeting as the Davison County Board of Adjustment, the county's commissioners said no to a request from Avera to pay an agriculture tax rate on its nearly 30 acres of land south of Interstate 90, despite the hospital's plans to build on that land this summer.

"We're just looking for some consideration," Avera Queen of Peace Vice President and CFO Will Flett said. "I mean, that's a pretty significant amount of money for our organization that is taking away resources from our mission."

The decision was a part of the Davison County Commission's regular meeting, held at the courthouse in Mitchell.

The change in classification from non-ag to commercial on Avera Queen of Peace's parcel of 29.23 acres, valued at $2,508,185, would have resulted in a $57,000 difference in taxes this year for the health care provider.

The request was based on the current use of the land, since Flett said the property is currently used as hay ground. Flett said they hire a farmer to bale the ground, and Avera Queen of Peace does not collect revenue from the haying. He said Avera Queen of Peace would likely get one cutting of hay off the property this year before starting development.

Davison County Director of Equalization Kathy Goetsch said the use of the land doesn't meet the state requirements for ag classification, which include 33.3 percent of the total gross income of the owner coming from ag use and the principal use of the land being devoted to raising and harvesting crops.

She called the haying of the land "incidental." The commissioners said they had already established a precedent regarding agricultural use in the county.

"We've set the precedent that they need to meet that criteria, by law," Commissioner Denny Kiner said.

Avera Queen of Peace bought the parcel for $1.6 million from the Mitchell Area Development Corp., and has put together a master plan for the site, which includes a three-story, 60,000 square-foot medical office building that would house all of the organization's primary care facilities.

"We're not against paying taxes," Flett said. "We're just looking for some consideration for this particular circumstance."

The land was tax-exempt prior to Avera Queen of Peace's purchase. The holding of the land for future use opened the land back up to a taxable status.

When Avera Queen of Peace opens a facility at the site and has workers employed, the health care non-profit will be able to file for a tax exempt status and will not have to pay property taxes on that land if approved.

Grievance matter moves to state level

An employee in the Davison County jail who believes she did not receive the sick time she deserved has taken her issue to the state Department of Labor.

Tammy Herrick had previously been before the commission Feb. 25, along with representation from the Teamsters Local 120 chapter, but the commission sided with existing county policy.

In January, Herrick called in sick on the first day of her pay period, but later worked a day that was previously a scheduled day off. She worked 77 hours in the two-week span and was paid three hours from her accrued sick time to bring her to a full 80 hours for the two weeks.

A Teamsters representative argued Herrick had a right to the collectively bargained sick time pay, and that she should be complimented for the time she worked on an original day off.

State's Attorney Jim Miskimins has filed a response to Herrick's petition and defends the county's position in the matter, saying the county properly followed its established rules in the personnel policy. The response says Herrick is seeking nine hours of sick time pay for the 12-hour shift she did not work.

Miskimins said no date for the state-level hearing has been set.

Other business

In regular business Tuesday, the commissioners:

• Introduced new deputy Michael Novak, bringing the sheriff's department back to full strength. He starts April 28 at $16.26 per hour.

• Approved the purchase of a new laptop and wireless equipment for the state's attorney's office at a cost of $1,448.

• Heard a presentation from representatives from the Planning and Development District III and the state Department of Agriculture on rural development in the county.

• Approved agenda, minutes, outstanding bills.