01STOCK_MONEY1

JANESVILLE

Some Rock County landowners say bills requesting payment to the Rock County Drainage Board were sent improperly and made without a necessary public hearing.

The group of 19 landowners comprising 16 addresses within the Bass Creek Drainage District in southwestern Rock County wants the board to hold a special meeting before the first payment deadline of Monday, Feb. 25, to get more information about the charges.

Drainage Board Chairman Dennis Beggs said he is working to organize a special meeting before Feb. 25, but nothing is yet planned.

Beggs insisted all assessments were discussed at an August board meeting with properly noticed public hearings. Because the meeting was lightly attended, the board waited until its next meeting in December to finalize the bills, he said.

The charges range from less than $1 to $1,600. More than 500 bills were sent across the county, including 77 in the Bass Creek district, Beggs said.

Doug Rebout, one of the 19 landowners, said he received a bill of $2,700 for three parcels. His total payment is the highest of anyone he’s talked to, he said.

Half of the total is due Feb. 25, and the remainder is due Feb. 25, 2020, according to an undated assessment mailing notice obtained by The Gazette.

Some landowners were concerned that if they didn’t make the first payment on time, the county could place liens on their properties. Beggs told The Gazette that would not happen.

The mailing notice makes the following reference to liens:

“If you need to have the lien on your property from this assessment satisfied, the district will furnish a release which you can have recorded at a cost with the register of deeds in the county in which the land is located.”

A Feb. 10 letter from the concerned landowners addressed to Rock County Judge Karl Hanson requests the judge issue an injunction to halt payment deadlines. As of Wednesday morning, a clerk in Hanson’s office said she had not received any letter from the landowners.

Another landowner, Marv Vike, said he was “shocked” when he received the bill and was not previously aware of the possible charges.

Rebout said some members of the group were considering not paying their bills until they get answers about how the money will be used. Others worried about the threat of liens.

Beggs said drainage board funds can be used for administrative, maintenance and project construction costs. Having a reserve of money also can help the board prepare for natural disasters or apply for grants to assist with future projects, he said.

Assessments don’t happen often. The last overall district assessment was in 2001, Beggs said.

Rebout said he wasn’t sure if anyone in the group planned to take legal action. Scheduling a special meeting for more information was the first step.

“We want answers,” he said.

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