By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake City Council passed three motions regarding delinquent utility bills at Howard Lake Estates at a special council meeting Tuesday.
The council had previously authorized an agreement with the owners of the mobile park, which outlines a plan for payment of delinquent utility bills and repair of park sewer infrastructure.
Howard Lake Estates owners didn’t meet the initial terms of the agreement made with council, according to City Administrator Jennifer Nash.
“Although Howard Lake Estates has paid the utility bill the last two months,” Nash stated.
Attorney Mike Couri of Couri and Ruppe suggested that the council:
• reject the counteroffer made by Howard Lake Estates;
• rescind the motion made Jan. 20, that allowed the mobile home park owners to pay for delinquent utilities through a mortgage; and
• pass a motion to set a date to certify unpaid utility bills with the county auditor.
“The city has been in a tough position with this situation for some time,” Mayor Pete Zimmerman commented. “It’s unfortunate to get pushed into a corner and have to take action on this, but we have to do something to protect the city and its residents.”
The council agreed unanimously to pass all three motions recommended by its legal counsel.
The next step for city staff is to send a letter to the mobile home park owners informing them that an assessment for unpaid utilities will be certified and due with next year’s taxes, according to Couri.
“This is addressing only delinquent utility bills,” Couri noted.
Tax forfeit parcels
The council also discussed how to handle assessments on 12 tax forfeit parcels in Howard Lake, which are currently owned by the State of Minnesota.
There are lots in Dutch Lake Preserve development that are currently for sale through Wright County for $100, plus the cost due to the City of Howard Lake for assessments.
“The city is still paying debt service on the parcels,” Nash commented.
The previous owner did not pay taxes or the required assesments, which is why the parcels were forefeited to the state for non-payment of taxes, she added.
The parcels cost the city about $13,500 each per year.
Couri presented options to the council including reducing assessments to be re-imposed on properties at time of sale; leaving parcel assessments “as-is” and leaving properties for sale through Wright County’s tax forfeit list; or purchasing the parcels from Wright County.
The properties are part of a homeowners’ association and have covenants, or rules, connected with property combining or splitting, according to Nash.
“Staff would probably need to look further into the rules of the association and how they would affect the situation,” she commented.
The council directed city staff to continue reviewing the covenants on the properties, and determine approximate re-assessment amounts that will make the properties marketable, while also recovering city costs.