April 3 news

WORTHINGTON – Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Balster Tuesday informed Nobles County Commissioners that the glitch that caused property tax statements to be misnamed last week is being addressed. Thousands of the statements were correct, she said, but the ones that had the wrong names on the property descriptions will be resent with the correct information. That this happened the first time her department used Forum Communications to process the tax statements was simply a fluke, Balster said.

The commissioners approved an analysis to be performed to see if the Public Works building on Diagonal Road would work for a new library site. Vetter Johnson architects designed the 10-year-old portion of the building and will also be doing the analysis, so it shouldn’t be a long process, they said. The Commissioners months ago approved $15,000 to be spent on library research, and approximately $5,000 of that has not been used. County Administrator Tom Johnson said there may be potential for the county to collaborate with the city of Worthington on a co-located public works facility on the edge of town.

The board also scheduled a tour of county roads to look at possible problem areas and project sites, approved adjustments to the county water plan, acknowledged Corrections Officer Joel Wellnitz for his Excellence in Performance award and reissued a resolution for the designation of county state aid highway 37 in Bigelow so funding for the turnback can be transferred to the county’s state aid account.

WORTHINGTON – The Nobles county library on April 17 will host an open house to celebrate National Library Week. The open house will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The library’s spring book sale also begins April 17 and runs through April 20.

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - With one abstention, the Dickinson county board of supervisors Tuesday voted to approve disbursing low to moderate income housing funds generated by two tax increment finance districts in the city of Lake Park to the Lake Park Housing Authority.

The action followed further discussion that had one supervisor, Pam Jordan, still concerned over wording in various documents, including the authority’s bylaws. Jordan and fellow supervisor Mardi Allen aired similar concerns at a meeting last month. But Allen told the group Tuesday the concerns she had have since been addressed.

Lance Heikens, who spoke on behalf of the Lake Park Housing Authority, again explained how the organization plans to use the funds to help spruce up existing housing stock in the city and to help counter a growing shortage of affordable housing.

Jordan abstained from the four-to-nothing vote by the supervisors to transfer the funds to the authority.

SPENCER, Iowa - A Spencer man charged with first degree murder and first degree robbery in the death of 59-year-old Edward Kitto last August has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. 21-year-old Christopher Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty Monday to charges of voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine.

During the plea hearing, Fitzpatrick admitted to severely beating Kitto, then stealing money from his wallet.

Under the plea agreement, he faces up to 45 years in prison and will be eligible for parole after 17 years. He will also be required to pay $150,000 in restitution to Kitto’s family. Sentencing is set for May 10th.

An accomplice, 21-year-old Cody Millard, has pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge. His trial is scheduled to start June 25th.

Kitto was found unresponsive in a back yard in the 500 block of East 3rd Street in Spencer. He was flown to a Sioux Falls hospital, but never regained consciousness.

LYON COUNTY - The Lyon County Sheriff's Department in Iowa this morning arrested Robin J. Cwach, age 43, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Cwach is being held on the Lyon County charge of Fugitive from Justice due to a valid warrant issued for his arrest in South Dakota. He is wanted in Minnehaha County on charges of threatening a judicial officer and misuse of phone. Cwach is currently being held in the Lyon County Jail awaiting extradition to South Dakota.

MINNESOTA - A great-great-grandmother who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and memory loss and who admits she voted twice because she forgot her first absentee ballot vote, has been cleared.

Margaret Schneider, 86, of St. Peter, had been due in Nicollet County Court on Tuesday, accused of filling out two ballots in last year’s primary and charged with a felony count of voter fraud. She had planned to represent herself. She had said the second vote was a simple mistake because her memory failed.

Prosecutors were sympathetic to the woman, but they had said their hands were tied – the law forced them to pursue the case.

The case was resolved without her appearing in court. She won’t be fined or jailed, the only stipulation is that she obey voting laws, and her record will be cleared in November 2014, pending no further infractions.

ST. PAUL - Minnesota House Democrats are proposing $250 million in property tax relief, including a boost in refunds available to homeowners, new credits for renters and an increase in aid to local governments they say should reduce reliance on local property taxes.

Backers say the proposal unveiled Tuesday would make an additional 225,000 homeowners and renters eligible for property tax refunds and increase the size of refunds for many of the currently eligible.

That's accomplished by a $157 million increase in the state's property tax relief program, and an additional $15.5 million for a credit that provides direct relief to low- and middle-income renters.

Gov. Mark Dayton had originally proposed $500 property tax refunds to all Minnesota property owners. But House Property Tax Chairman Rep. Jim Davnie says he's targeting those in greatest need of property tax relief.

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