OLIVIA -- Buffalo Lake has made steady progress towards removing those properties that were damaged by the tornadoes that swept through town in June of 2003, and left blighted and neglected in their wake.
Some of the last properties to be cleared may prove to be the most costly.
Joyce Nyhus, mayor of Buffalo Lake, asked the Renville County board of commissioners on Tuesday to consider forgiving roughly $17,000 in back taxes owed by four properties acquired and cleared by the city.
The city convinced their owners to give the properties holding three, blighted homes to the city. In return, the owners would qualify for a write-off on their income taxes.
The city subsequently invested approximately $50,000 in razing the three rental homes on the sites and filling in the lots, the mayor told the commissioners.
But, the mayor said the city has since learned that before the property can be deeded to the city, the back taxes totaling roughly $17,000 must be paid.
County Auditor/Treasurer Larry Jacobs told the commissioners that state law is very specific in requiring that back taxes be paid before the deeds can be transferred.
The commissioners asked Jacobs for a recommendation at their meeting next Tuesday, but expressed hesitation about the request to forgive the back taxes. Virtually every community in the county has blighted properties saddled with back taxes. Forgiving those taxes would set a precedent and prove costly ten times over, commissioners noted.
Before the homes were razed, Nyhus said citizens had come in large numbers to a city council meeting and pleaded with the city to acquire them. The properties had been used as rental units for migrant workers prior to the devastating 2003 storm. She said the houses were vacant, had broken windows, falling ceilings, rodents and other safety issues. "No one was ever going to live in them again,'' she said.