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Cass County Board: Commissioners opt to not join St. Paul-based loan program

BLIND LAKE TOWNSHIP—Cass County Board Tuesday, Aug. 21, unanimously declined to pass a resolution to join the MinnPACE program, which would have offered loans to people in the county interested in obtaining a loan to make energy saving improvements to their property.

Commissioner Scott Bruns was absent from the Tuesday meeting.

The Port Authority of the city of St. Paul offered the program to Cass County. The Port Authority would have arranged for loans from financial institutions or sold bonds to make money available to property owners wishing to make energy efficiency and conservation improvements to their property.

The Port Authority would then have placed a lien against the person's property and have had the county collect payments by a special property tax assessment toward repaying the loan over time.

Administrator Joshua Stevenson said state law would allow the county to take the borrower's whole property should they default on the lien amount.

This puts the county taxpayers on the hook for recovering the defaulted amount, Commissioner Dick Downham said.

The commissioners noted it would mean that, while the county could seize the business, farm or residence to recover the loan, the county would be left holding a property it would have to try to sell above market value. The county only sells tax-forfeited properties at market value, plus any unpaid special assessments.

The special assessment to recover the lien would put it above the value buyers would want to pay, the board agreed.

Further, Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk noted, the program does not provide any money to cover the county's employee cost to add the special assessment to tax bills or to collect the money and pay it to the Port Authority.

The commissioners also agreed they did not want to offer a program that would compete with local lenders.

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