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Litigation costs between Renville County and the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op top $1 million

OLIVIA -- Renville County's costs for ongoing litigation between the county and Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative have now topped $1 million.

The Renville County Board of Commissioners approved the latest payment for legal counsel of $5,205.60 to the firm of Briggs and Morgan at its meeting Tuesday. The payment brought the total in litigation fees to the county to $1,058,409.91, according to minutes of the meeting.

The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative has filed five separate cases challenging the taxes it was required to pay from 2004 through 2008. The litigation has reached the state's high court, but a final resolution has not yet been achieved.

The dispute is over how the county determines the value on the cooperative's property and what should be considered real property for taxing purposes.

In other business, the commissioners agreed to ask a special committee to develop the job description for a new county administrator. The motion came with a split vote. Commissioners Paul Setzepfandt, Bob Fox and Ralph Novotny voted for the committee while John Stahl voted no and chairman Gale Dahlager abstained.

The commissioners originally planned to work with the Minnesota Association of Counties in its search for an administrator to succeed Bill Wells. He is leaving today to become city administrator for Orono. He served as Renville County's first administrator after accepting the position in December 1998.

The commissioners are now planning to launch the administrator search on their own. The committee appointed to develop the job description includes: Paul Setzepfandt and Ralph Novotny, county commissioners; Jerry Brustuen, human services director; Jill Bruns, public health director, Larry Jacobs, auditor/treasurer; Karrie Jansen, finance director; and Zach Robideau, human resource director.

In another matter, the commissioners awarded the low bid for the County Road 11 project subject to final approval by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Duininck Bros. Inc. of Prinsburg offered the low bid of $3,446,976.59. Four firms submitted bids.

The engineer's estimate was $3,431,280.75.

The project calls for rebuilding County Road 11 from its junction at Minnesota Highway 4 to a point 5½ miles east.

The commissioners had rejected bids for the project when those submitted earlier this summer exceeded the engineer's estimate by more than 10 percent. The commissioners believed the higher-than-expected bids were due to contractors' concerns about rapidly rising oil prices at the time.