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County rejects tax abatement claims at Tuesday meeting

Dickinson Tax Assessor Joe Hirschfeld, left, speaks to Stark County commissioners as property-owner Carlos Royal, middle, looks on. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)

Carlos Royal, who owns several Dickinson apartment complexes, was back in town on Tuesday to bring his tax abatement claims to the Stark County Commission.

After a roughly 45-minute presentation on why he felt that several of his properties in Dickinson were overvalued in 2015 and 2016 — thus making him pay more in taxes those years — and a response from Tax Assessor Joe Hirschfeld, Stark County commissioners voted unanimously to reject Royal's abatement claims, just as the Dickinson City Commission has already done.

"I am here because you have the power, authority and duty to correct any property not listed at its true full and fair market value," Royal said in presenting his case to the commission. "We took a trip headed to the moon with oil. Now we have to get back to earth."

Hirschfeld questioned the data and methodology Royal used to draw his conclusions and argued that his property value assessments were fair and equitable given the data he was provided when the properties were assessed.

"I am confident in the valuation that I have and the method we used to arrive at it." Hirschfeld said. "I have huge concerns about the data (Royal's) appraiser provided. ... I can't in good conscience change one property on an owner's say-so."

Royal's tax abatement case comes down to how rapidly Dickinson's real estate market, and specifically the apartment market, dropped off after the recent oil boom. Royal said tax assessors didn't take into account the speed and severity of the apartment market bust, and used assessments that were tied more to oil prices than real estate.

Hirschfeld said that during the early years of the boom, property owners like Royal benefited from undervalued properties because the data took time to catch up. Hirschfeld argued that his figures were reasonable given the data he was working from.

Royal pledged to continue to fight his case, even if it means eventually taking it to North Dakota courts.

In other commission business:

• Rod Cockeram of Scull Construction told commissioners of recent developments in construction on the new Stark County Courthouse. He said his team is putting the final touches on construction and is waiting for materials. He expects the courthouse to be ready to open by the end of the year.

• Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said a staff member he has brought on has made significant progress on dealing with noxious weeds near gravel piles, a problem the county has been dealing with during the drought-plagued summer.

• Commissioner Dean Dranchuk agreed to attend the annual North Dakota State Fair meeting in Minot.

• Dickinson Airport Manager Kelly Braun updated commissioners on the airport's renovation projects and funds they are requesting from the county. Commissioners delayed a final decision on airport funding.

• Farren Richard told commissioners that noise from Brady Wind Farm's wind towers near his home close to Lefor has become "considerably higher" than what the company assured when they were installed. Commissioners directed his complaints to the Public Service Commission.

Grady McGregor

Grady McGregor is a city and state politics reporter for The Dickinson Press. He joined The Press in July 2017.

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